Two Evanston School District 65 board members abstained from leadership votes Monday night citing frustration with the board’s ineffectiveness and lack of focus.
“We as a board are responsible to the community and voters to set our vision and priorities as a district. I believe we are falling short, particularly in terms of setting clear priorities,” said Candance Chow.
“We frequently and passionately speak to where we are falling short – in particular with respect to equity and opportunity for our most marginalized students,” said Chow, who’s in the middle of her second four-year term on the board.
“Yet instead of engaging with one another to make decisions on the critical few areas where we should make significant investment, we are trying to be everything and do everything – diminishing our impact and circumventing our responsibility.”
“For the past several years, the vast majority of our time is spent directing the administration to provide more information that tells the same narrative,” she said. “We will never have perfect information, but we must hold ourselves accountable and make some very challenging but necessary decisions on what we should do differently to prepare our children for high school and beyond.”
Lindsay Cohen shared Chow’s concerns, saying, “I am frustrated by how little we have accomplished as a Board. District 65 board meetings have become little more than public venting of frustration on important topics, accompanied by presentations from the administration we are able to publicly question or comment on, but with no actionable, engaged dialog or ideas on what we as a board can do to lead us forward.”
“I am also frustrated by the lack of transparency by the Board leadership although that was promised two years ago,” said Cohen, who’s in the middle of her first term on the board. “It is clear that there is significant back door diplomacy that is occurring by this board leadership and I have not been privileged to most of it.”
“Meetings that occur with Northwestern University, meetings that occur with union leaders, meetings that occur throughout the community, meetings that occur with school leaders and administration all go unreported,” she said. “In the past two years, I have received only a handful of updates regarding any of these meetings, and certainly have not received an invitation to participate. This lack of transparency inhibits our potential as a governing body; it’s not just a petty grievance.”
Both members asked for changes to make the board more effective.
“I ask the board leadership to enable and require our board to set a discrete, manageable and evidence-based set of priorities for the coming year, and to do that through respectful, honest and hopefully even divergent perspectives where we must come to clear consensus and direct our administration to execute appropriately with our support,” said Chow.
“I implore the current board leadership, who because they are for a second year running unopposed will continue for yet another term, regardless of my vote, to act with purpose and truly lead this governing body and help guide our district by creating the necessary vision so that all of our students can achieve academically and flourish as people,” Cohen said.
Sergio Gonzalez and Anya Tanyavutti, who were re-elected earlier this month, took the oath of office. Rebeca Mendoza, also re-elected, was not present and will take the oath at another time.
Sunith Kartha was re-elected president and Tanyavutti was re-elected vice president, both with four votes in favor and two abstentions.