The candidates nearly outnumbered the dozen or so members of the audience Tuesday night at a forum in the cavernous auditorium at Evanston Township High School for six persons vieing for four positions on the school’s District 202 Board of Education.

For 90 minutes the three incumbents and three challengers pretty much agreed with each other about the need for the school to do a better job of educating African-American and Hispanic students that traditionally score below white students on state and national standardized tests.

At the same time, they all professed a desire for the school to continue its practice of providing opportunities for the less academically inspired students to prepare themselves for careers that do not necessarily require a college education.

All three of the challengers brought to the panel considerable experience dealing with the issues that face a high school board.

In alphabetical order, Russell Kohnken retired recently as a chemistry teacher at the school and currently serves as high school education chair and science coach for the Chicago American Chemical Society and as a webinar presenter for the American Association of Chemistry Teachers.

Jude Laude, a 1984 graduate of ETHS, has been an educator for 26 years, most of it with inner city schools in Chicago. He has nearly 10 years of experience as a school counselor and is currently working at North Lawndale College Prep High School.

And Pat Maunsell , who holds a masters degree in education and social policy from Northwestern University, says she has spent 30 years working in education and advocating for kids as a classroom teacher, a senior manager at national organizations, and as a consultant for local and national school districts and education organizations.

The incumbents include Gretchen Livingston, Pat Savage-Williams, and Anne Sills.

Livingston is completing her second four-year term on the board. An attorney, she is a former president of the board and serves as the vice chair of Ed-Red, the advocacy organization for suburban school districts.

Savage-Williams is completing her second year as president of the board. As an educator for 35 years, she is the Special Education Coordinator and Equity Leader at New Trier High School. A 37-year resident of the Evanston/Skokie community, she has two daughters who went through the local public school districts and on to graduate from college at the University of Iowa and Washington University in St. Louis.

Anne Sills, the newest member of the board, is completing the term of Bill Geiger, who moved from the district two years ago. An ETHS graduate, Sills says she has been an advocate for public education in Evanston for 25 years. She was an unsuccessful candidate for the board in the 2015 school board elections, but was subsequently appointed to the board to fill the Geiger vacancy.

The school board elections will be held April 4, with early voting beginning on March 20.

Last night’s forum was co-sponsored by the Evanston/Skokie PTA Council, the League of Women Voters of Evanston, the Evanston Community Foundation, and ETHS Parents Engaged.

Next Tuesday evening, a similar forum featuring city clerk candidates and candidates for the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education will be held, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave. The city clerk candidates will be featured from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by the District 65 candidates.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

Join the Conversation


  1. D202 School Board

    I attended last night’s session and the following candidates clearly distinguished themselves with their thoughtful, insightful and informed answers:

    Russ Kohnken, Jude Laude, Gretchen Livingston, and Pat Maunsell.

    The challenges confronting ETHS and all of our students are significant and require school board members who have an interest and ability to ask questions, understand what works and why, and who can empower and enable teachers and administrators to do their job to enable all students to realize their fullest potential.

    1. Forums

      And yet, almost nobody shows up for these important meetings…..which is typical, even with aldermen voting, etc…….Then people act surprised or angry when the “wrong” people get elected…(according to them).   Show up…make a difference, and vote!

  2. Links to videos of candidate forums

    Thanks for this coverage.  We counted 59 people in attendance, aside from the six candidates.  ETHS live-streamed the forum, and the video can be viewed at your convenience at:


    Additional information on the candidates and candidate forums for both boards of education and the municipal races can be found here:




    In addition, the Evanston/Skokie PTA Council, along with every member PTA that has taken a vote, has endorsed the District 65 operating referendum.  Additional information can be found here: 


    Don’t miss the District 65 candidate forum on March 14 at the Joseph E. Hill Center, and be sure to vote on April 4.

    Elliot Frolichstein-Appel
    Evanston/Skokie PTA Council


    1. Estimates of audience size

      Estimating the size of an audience is not always easy. Although 59 persons may have shown up on the video, when you take into account that each of the four sponsoring organizations had people there to hand out programs and greet the audience, and the six candidates are accompanied by one or two campaign volunteers each, and the school janitorial and security personnel are there as well, not to mention the press covering the event and the television crew itself, the estimate of “a dozen or so” is probably a reasonable one.

      A half-century ago when I was a young reporter, I recall asking a police officer how they went about estimating crowd sizes.

      “It’s easy,” he said. “We count the number of legs and divide by two.”

      Sometimes I suspect that people forget to do the division part of the formula.

  3. About small turnout

    Could it be that small turnout also means many people believe things are not that bad at ETHS as a whole? My children, for one example, consistently come back saying how good the school is. The school ranks well on many fronts, and sports and academic teams have good success in the area.

    Just saying…

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