Donna Wang Su says “she stayed up pretty late last night, refreshing the page” that had election returns.
Those returns came in much slower than expected, but when the counting was finished, Su took the fourth and final seat on the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board, base on numbers released by the County Clerk’s office this afternoon, by just 46 votes over Marquise Weatherspoon, 5,438 to 5,392.
But because mail-in ballots postmarked by election day will still be counted if they arrive in the next two weeks, Su says she’s still “a little on the nervous side. I don’t feel comfortable” declaring victory quite yet. There’s still a chance that Weatherspoon could win. In fact, on her Facebook page, Weatherspoon posted that she “has not given up hope.”
Late-arriving mail ballots have rarely changed the outcome in the past, although with the large number of mail ballots requested due to COVID-19, that is at least conceivably different this time.
Su, who is president of the PTA Council, ran as an independent, not aligning herself either with the three incumbents, all of whom won re-election, or with the three challengers from the Reopen Evanston Schools organization. (Weatherspoon was not officially aligned with either group, but was endorsed by at least one organization that also endorsed the incumbents).
Su said she respects all three winning incumbents, Soo La Kim, Biz Lindsay-Ryan, and Joey Hailpern. But she also said “I don’t want us to always hold hands and unanimously agree” on everything. That disagreement, Su said, should be done responsibly.
The parent of two District 65 students, third and sixth graders, Su said her experience with various volunteer organizations, plus her financial skills as associate director of Northwestern’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation should help her navigate various school board issues.
She said the board needs a “stronger focus on transparency,” with more understandable communications to the community. Sometimes, she said, school communications are what kids call “TLDR … too long, didn’t read.” Su would also like to see roll call votes at board meetings, so it’s easier to see who favors what.
Su said she’s very aware of the polarization in Evanston over various issues, particularly when and whether school should have reopened during the pandemic. She also knows that other potentially divisive conflicts are on the horizon, such as budget cuts, redistricting and even the closing of one or more schools.
Su said she’s open to hearing all options, as “the school board needs to represent the community.”
Despite the long night waiting for election results, Su said she was up at 6 a.m. today, taking down her yard signs from near school buildings. “I didn’t want the custodial staff to have to do it,” she said.
But even if Marquise Weatherspoon does ultimately end up winning, Su said she will “still be involved” with trying to make things better in the community. “I’m a constant volunteer.”
If she maintains the lead and becomes a board member, Su said, “the easy work is over.” A tough election may be nothing compared to making decisions on tough issues.