During a lightly-attended forum that featured similar answers to most questions from all four Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board candidates, Adrian Dortch managed to stand out Thursday evening by fumbling two of the baker’s dozen of questions asked.

Dortch, who is the only candidate seeking seats on both the District 65 and District 202 boards, responding second to a question about the new PARCC achievement testing program, answered as if he’d been asked instead about the special education program at Park School.

Later, asked about efforts to provide differentiation in instructional programs — so students who have different levels of mastery can receive individualized help — he confessed that he wasn’t familiar with the topic.

Fewer than three dozen people attended the forum at the District 65 administration building sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Evanston and the PTA Council.

Candidates Adrian Dortch, Omar Brown, Jennifer Phillips and Richard Rykhus at the forum.

Voters in the April 7 election will be filling three seats on the seven-member board.

Asked about how the board should deal with anticipated funding cuts from the state, incumbent board member Omar Brown called for “transparent communication” about the budget challenges. and incumbent Richard Rykhus said the board should work with lawmakers “to make sure they understand the actual impact” of budget choices they’ll be making.

Newcomer Jennifer Phillips noted that the board has considered holding a referendum to raise more operating funds next year and suggested the board needed “a more transparent budget process” before doing that.

Dortch suggested consolidating the two districts as a way to cut costs.

All the candidates voiced support for continuing arts education programs in the schools and for the special ed programs at Park School.

However, Phillips said Park costs $4 million to run each year for an enrollment of 66 students, and she suggested that over time that money might have been better spent to make other schools more accessible.

Asked if there were any recent school board decisions they disagreed with, Brown and Dortch said they couldn’t think of any.

Phillips and Rykhus said they didn’t agree with the schools measuring students’ body mass index as part of a fitness program.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. correction

    I would like to point out that I did not say Park School money "might have been better spent to make other schools more accessible."  The per-pupil costs at Park School are high but warranted to meet student needs  That was not in question. The question was about Park School's sustainability and there are many questions for the community to grapple with to determine the right course if the high school pulls out of the partnership.  What I did say was that I don't believe the strategic planning process adequately addressed the similar but distinct issues of Park School, inclusion and special education.  I also expressed my disappointment that 25 years ago when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed that D65 did not start a long-term capital campaign to make schools more accessible.  My statements on this question were BOTH/AND not EITHER/OR.  Perhaps I ‘fumbled’ a bit trying to make my points on this questions but pitting Park School resources against capital investments for better inclusion in the schools was not the point I was trying to make.

    I also want to express my opinion that this headline is disheartening.  It is not easy to put yourself in the public eye and run for office.  Given the low turnout last night, we should be applauding anyone who cares enough to bring new ideas, beliefs and a passion for public education to the table.  We need more people not fewer who care enough to run for public office.  Let's not discourage people from participating with headlines like this one.

    Jennifer Phillips

    1. Counting heads

      Both Monday's 202 forum and Thursday's 65 forum were streamed on-line and available on demand from the respective districts' web sites, as well as from the PTA Council.  In a few days' time, the ETHS web site indicated more than 100 views of Monday's recording.

      Thanks to your coverage and that of the Roundtable and Daily Northwestern, many more people will read about the forums even if they didn't attend or watch the video recording.  Voter engagement isn't dead, it has just moved online.  Let's see how many turn out to vote.

      1. Forums online

        As of the moment, the D65 forum does not appear to be available anywhere yet for replay — at least I haven't been able to find it.

        If you find a link to it that works, please post a comment with the link.

        The D202 forum recording is available. Readers can find it here.

        — Bill

        1. D202 Forum Online

          Thank you very much for posting the link to the D202 candidates forum, hope something materializes for D65, too.

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