Following a tumultuous meeting filled with catcalls and verbal finger pointing over safety and discipline, once things quieted down, the District 65 Board of Education chose Sergio Hernandez as its president for the next 12 months.
“Educator colleagues here,” Hernandez said to teachers in the boardroom on Monday night, “I still hold my license. I’m with you.”
Board members unanimously approved Hernandez, a former bilingual educator, to replace Anya Tanyavutti as leader of the board for the next 12 months.
Hernandez proudly noted that he will be the first Latino to head the nearly 7,000-student district’s board. He has been on the board since 2017.
Tanyavutti, who said she was likely the first Black female board president, will remain on the panel.
Marquise Weatherspoon, on the board since last summer, was unanimously selected as vice-president. That position had been held by Biz Lindsay-Ryan, who will also stay on as a board member.
Hernandez, on the Evanston/Skokie board since 2017, faces numerous challenges, from finances, to redistricting and construction of the 5th Ward school, and — based on Monday night’s session — trying to rebuild fractured relations with the district’s teachers.
More than 100 educators and parents packed the board meeting, demanding immediate improvements in safety and discipline at Haven Middle School, scene of recent student fights.
Hernandez, who did not comment during the contentious part of the meeting, told the teachers that “we want to be at the table with you.”
He mentioned a collaborative effort where teacher input helped create the “Algebra For All” program, and said, “We look forward to having those conversations and re-establishing those relationships with you.”
Hernandez also mentioned his and the district’s committment to equity, something also highlighted by Tanyavutti just before her term as president ended.
“As a little black girl the world sent me message after message that I was nothing special,” Tanyavutti noted.
“May those messages no longer be sent to our babies,” she added.
The outgoing president cited improvements in pre-kindergarten readiness for early childhood students, as well as test score gains for older students in a new tutoring program.
She also pointed to redistricting and the 5th Ward school decision as points of pride and progress.
However, Tanyavutti also said she had “faced monumental levels of anti-Black racism” during her tenure as a board leader.
Now it is up to Hernandez to lead the board and set its tone.
He said that board members “have been trying to build a bridge, and we’re going to continue to build that bridge, because our kids and our families need us.”
None of us can do this alone, Hernandez said, to his board collagues, to the district employees and to parents and students.
“We can work together,” he added, “to make a lasting and sustainable impact in this community.”