Leah Piekarz thanks supporters who helped her win D202 board position.

Leah Piekarz is coming back to ETHS.

After 21 years as a guidance counselor at Evanston Township High School, Piekarz retired at the end of the 2021-22 academic calendar.

But now, Piekarz has earned four more years at the high school (unpaid this time), by coming in second in the District 202 Board of Education election.

Incumbents Monique Parsons (first in the balloting) and Liz Rolewicz (third) were re-elected.

Another challenger, Kristen Scotti, came in fourth in the race to fill three positions.

Piekarz celebrated at home with friends and backers.

“I’m excited,” she said.

“I really do think this is an important responsibility and a privilege” to hold board office.

Piekarz said her knowledge of ETHS, and experience helping students with both academic and social/emotional issues will be an asset.

“We need to be proud of what we do at the high school,” she said, “but also always take a critical eye and see what we can improve.”

District 65 will also add an educator to the board.

Omar Salem, a Niles North High School teacher currently on leave to work with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, came in first in the five-person race for three positions.

Incumbents Mya Wilkins and current board president Sergio Hernandez came in second and third, respectively.

There is at least a chance, in theory, that fourth-place finisher John Martin could squeak by Hernandez once all the mail-in votes are counted.

Mail-ins which are postmarked by Election Day are added to the totals if they arrive within two weeks.

Martin currently trails Hernandez by 153 votes.

“It’s plausible,” Martin said, about pulling out a victory.

But it’s also a long shot.

Hernandez, Wilkins, and Salem ran as the “Equity Ticket.”

Hernandez said the voters’ message was “to continue the systemic work to ensure that everyone has equitable access to what they need” to succeed in school.

He said there are certainly some who disagree with the current board’s policies, “but we want to work with them, and find places to compromise.”

Wilkins was appointed to fill a vacancy. This was her first run for public office.

Mya Wilkins celebrated her victory at the Good to Go restaurant.

She, too, said the election results “sent a clear message that the voters really care about all students, and want to see all of our kids do well. This vote today reenforces that.”

As for Salem, not only did he win, but also came in first. In doing so, he may have come up with a new political tactic – campaigning by not campaigning, at least not at the end.

Salem opted out of public campaign events in the last three weeks of the race, to spend more time with his family.

He did, however, campaign actively in earlier weeks, and offered to talk in person with voters as Election Day approached. He also had positions on the issues spelled out on his website, along with videos.

Salem was not available for comment on Election Night.

While Salem was on the “Equity Ticket” with Hernandez and Wilkins, his position papers also said that District 65 communication with families has to improve, and teachers “need to be given the time and support they need to meet the needs of their students.”

Hernandez was not surprised that Salem was elected.

“He ran in the middle and that served him well,” Hernandez added.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


  1. Is there any data as to how actual parents voted vs other community members? That would make for a great article

    1. Its not equitable when the kids are receiving a subpar education Mr Hernandez!!!

      But yeah…let’s keep working on the “equitable piece” even if the kids cant read, do math or do any STEM at all.

      Another voting cycle, the same incompetent board that is going to pick another incompetent superintendent, great…cant wait.

  2. It’s over. Horton’s exit was welcome news but we’re returning the ideological board that put him there in the first place. There is little chance D65 will change the current path it is on.

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