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The hopefuls nearly out-numbered the spectators at Evanston’s Civic Center Saturday for a 10 a.m. forum featuring candidates for the Evanston/Skokie District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202 school boards.

The uncontested campaign for District 65, involving four candidates for four spots on the board, and the District 202 contest, with eight candidates for four positions, found little disagreement on the issues.

Sponsored by the Evanston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the forum was held in the City Council chambers and was moderated by Karen Chavers. It was broadcast live on cable television.

The four candidates for District 65 included incumbent Tracy Quattrocki and challengers Candance Chow, Claudia Garrison, and Suni Kartha.

District 202 candidates included two incumbents, Gretchen Livingston and Deborah Graham, and six challengers, Elena Garcia Ansani, Andrew Bezaitis, Bill Geiger, Doug Holt, Casey Miller, and Patricia Savage-Williams.

On the issue of teacher evaluations, the District 65 candidates agreed that student performance should play a role, but that it needs to be done carefully.

Garrison, a former teacher at Haven Middle School cautioned that evaluations must be fair and realistic, “but not based upon one high-stakes test.”

Quattrocki said “the devil is in the details” and said it was crucial that the evaluation system be developed in collaboration with the teachers.

Kurtha said effective evaluation requires strong leadership at the individual schools. “A strong principal is important in making a school great,” she declared.

Concern was expressed about the African-centered curriculum at Oakton Elementary School that Quattrocki said was successful in parental involvement, “but we did see a dip in achievement.”

After the first hour, which featured District 65 candidates, the eight candidates for the District 202 board took the stage.

While incumbent Graham said the early results of the newly structured humanities and biology classes that combine regular and honors students in the same classroom were “disappointing,” all eight candidates said they felt that the experiment bears close watching and that the data the board obtains in the fall of 2014 will be critical in determining whether the system should be altered.

“It’s too soon to hang up the ‘mission accomplished’ sign,” said Holt.

Savage-Williams said “we need to see how many students are moving on to Advanced Placement classes.”
Bezaitis said the criteria for evaluating the new system “should have been defined at the outset.”

The District 202 candidates were unanimous in their opinion that ETHS needs to be cognizant of the fact that many of its students do not go on to college, yet all students need to develop skills that will provide them with decent jobs.

While he said that vocational and technical training programs at the school are “outstanding,” Geiger said it is important to expand upon these “pathways to success.

Miller said it is important for the school to collaborate with local businesses and the city government to provide opportunities for its non-college-bound graduates.

Livingston said there is a need to “ramp up” the school’s job-placement opportunities.

Ansani said that ETHS has developed a “fabulous partnership” with Northwestern University, but needs to expand its relations with Oakton Community College as well.

The elections will be held April 9, with early voting scheduled to commence on March 25.

Top: District 65 candidates take their places at the forum in the City Council chambers at the Civic Center.
 

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...

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  1. Other Important Issues at D 65 forum

    I'm a little surprised that this account  leaves out some key points discussed at the 65 forum. Regarding the African Centered Curriculum, it's worth noting that while Ms Quatrocchi did mention the dip in achievement, she also noted that many kids in program have more challenges than those in Gen Ed, and that comparing the two was "not apples to apples". She also praised the high level of parental involvement and enthusiasm of the children in the ACC program, both factors correlated with long term school success. Ms Chow and Ms Katha both suggested that elements of the ACC should be incorporated in all District 65 schools, and commented on the need to make the curriculum less Eurocentric. Ms Garrison was the only candidate who freely admitted to knowing nothing about the program whatsoever.

    Another key issue discussed during the District 65 forum was tracking in math at the elementary level, and the pilot program at Bessie Rhodes which  collapses Algebra I (viewed as an honors or accelerated math program) with Algebra 8. Ms Chow and Ms Quatrocci both recommended pausing this expereiment and noted that what might work at a small school like Bessie Rhodes would not necessarily be viable at other schools. Ms Garrison expressed concerns about detracking math, since skills acquisition is necessary to move on to the next level. Ms Katha spoke to the dangers of early tracking in pereptuating inequity, leading high tracked students to assume they are "naturally" smart and perhaps not always push themselves, and causing low tracked students to give up on academics.

    There are significant differences between the candidates on these points, and it's important for the community to be aware of them, even in an uncontested race, especially since we are delaing with the same issues at the high school level.

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