Now that the Evanston Township High School District 202 Board has failed to obtain a majority of votes to fill the vacancy resulting from William Geiger’s resignation and forthcoming move to Charlotte, N.C., perhaps it needs our readers’ help in finding an alternative.

After all, there have been 14 applicants, many of whom have rather impressive qualifications. All 14 are summarized below. Which ones do you think deserve additional consideration by the board?

Feel free to click on the “Add Comment” button adjacent to this story and give us your opinion.

Following, in alphabetical order, are excerpts of information from their applications:

Elissa Bassler, CEO of the Illinois Public Health Institute.  A 14-year resident of Evanston with a son at ETHS. Holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Goodman School of  Drama at DePaul University.  Is “proud of how ETHS has worked to address the minority achievement gap.” Says she feels her many years experience in public policy gives her “a deep understanding of how the policy and legislative process works.”

John Berkley is vice president and general manager of Global Business Travel for American Express and a 15-year resident of the district. Holds a B.A. in History with a Religion minor from the University of Virginia. Also masters degrees from Virginia in Business Administration and in East Asian Studies. Says he believes there will be a transformational change in teaching over the next decade and that ETHS needs to innovate and pioneer in such areas as the “flipped classroom.”

Andrew Bezaitis, CEO of Apoplco, Inc. and an ETHS alum and parent. Ran unsuccessfully for the Board in 2013. Holds an MS in Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Says his experience “at research institutions, public and private companies and company boards, experience with multi-million dollar budgets, launching and building new businesses” would be valuable assets to the board.

Carl Brownell, a history teacher at ETHS for 13 years, now teaches at Maine East High School as the Department Chair for Social Science.  Graduated from Northwestern University as a history major and received his Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Brown University. Is particularly interested in “improving overall student achievement through the use of sound grading and assessment practices.”

Betsi Burns, assistant dean at Loyola University. Holds an M.S. in Education from Northwestern University. Has lived in the district for 18 years.  Says her experience as a university administrator would be helpful to the board in ensuring that all students are better prepared for college, vocational school, or work.

Maureen Kenney holds a B.A. in international management from Holyoke University and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. She is a new product development manager in the Cheese Division of Kraft Foods. A 29-year resident of the district and an ETHS parent, she participated in the Evanston Community Foundation’s Leadership Evanston  program and considers ETHS to be “the jewel of Evanston.”

Russell Kohnken, a 26-year resident of the Skokie portion of the district who just retired as chemistry teacher at ETHS. He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Michigan State University and is a Sunday School leader and treasurer of his church. “On the school board, I can provide a different perspective, one of both a teacher and a scientist,” he says.

Karen Larkin, a 16-year resident of the district, holds an MBA  from Northwestern University in finance, marketing, and organizational behavior and has worked for 15 years in business analysis, investment management, and strategy consulting. Says her business experience can be useful to the board “to further the goals of enhancing equity and excellence and accelerating the academic achievement of all students.”

Patricia Maunsell is an ETHS parent and has lived in the district for 14 years. Holds a Master of Science in Education and Social Policy degree from Northwestern University and an undergraduate degree in history and political science from the University of Vermont. She is an education communications consultant. Currently serves on the board of the McGaw YMCA and was recipient of the Phyllis Ganser PTA Volunteer of the Year Award in 2006.

Andrew Schultz is a parent of students in District 65 who are on their way to ETHS. Holds undergraduate degrees in electrical engineering and economics at Stanford University and an MBA from Northwestern University. Helped design electric car battery systems at Motorola and is presently general manager of the Chicago office of a digital marketing agency.

Anne Sills is a retired caterer who ran unsuccessfully for the board this year. She attended Kendall College in Evanston and Columbia College in Chicago. Was an independent small business owner in Evanston for 17 years. Worked with the District 65 Referendum Committee for Capital Improvements and a school in the Fifth Ward. She helped teach cooking at Haven Middle School. An ETHS graduate and parent of two ETHS students.

David Ter Molen, an ETHS graduate and parent who is a 14-year resident of the district. Holds a B.A. in History from Dartmouth College and a law degree from Northwestern University. Is a partner in a Chicago law firm in the intellectual property and litigation practice groups. Has been an outspoken advocate at ETHS for keeping class sizes “at an appropriate level.” He’s also a parent of students at Haven Middle School and Lincolnwood Elementary.

Mindy Wallis, a 17-year resident of the district and mother of three children who have attended ETHS. Feels that her “experience as an active observer, parent advocate, and occasional participant in the challenges and successes at ETHS” makes her uniquely qualified to serve.  An instructional designer of adult education courses at the Institute of Real Estate Management. Holds masters degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois. 

Liliana Barro Zecker has lived in the district for 22 years and is a parent of two ETHS graduates. She is an associate professor in DePaul University’s College of Education. Taught English as a second language in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was active in developing the Two-Way Immersion (TWI) program in District 65, where she chaired that district’s Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee.

Be sure your comments are positive in nature, as the board members want to know who they should appoint, not who they should not appoint to a job that one of our readers once described as “possibly the worst unpaid job ever.”

Related story:

ETHS Board at impasse on filling vacancy

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. Can you link applications or get summaries from the candidates?

    If we are to give feedback to the board that is helpful, we should do so based on what the candidates say about themselves.  Can you offer candidates the opportunity to summarize their application themselves, or hotlink or post all the applications in their entirety?

    1. With respect to experience

      With respect to experience and accomplishments Ann Sills is in the bottom quartile based on the bios here. Why exactly are half the board members pushing for her appointment when there seem to be quite a number of more accomplished choices?  Perhaps the board should articulate what qualities and resume attributes they feel the top candidate should have? That might be very illuminating….

  2. Wow. How very Evanston, to
    Wow. How very Evanston, to produce such a strong field of candidates. Expertise. Credentials. Passion. I have a couple of favorites. 😉

  3. ETHS Board – not a popularity contest

    As I mentioned in a prior post, a well functioning board is important to all organizations. Selecting a board member shouldn't be based on who you "like." (that's my opinion) What apears to be lacking in the current situation is that the ETHS board hasn't defined the criteria that they are seeking in the board member to replace Bill Geiger. My question to the board is what are your strengths and weaknesses and what qualities and attributes are you seeking that will improve and enhance the decision making process on the current board? The current 6 members all appear to bring different skills and experiences to the board, but what's missing? 

    The brief summaries for the 14 candidates demonstrate an impressive and diverse pool of talent that should be fully and thoroughly vetted. I agree with Michele Hayes' comment that if the community is going to be asked to provided input regarding the candidates that more information is needed. Thank you to all 14 candidates for applying for this position. Evanston is fortunate to have such a deep pool of talent to select from to enhance the ETHS Board.


  4. School Board

    It would be nice to know the extent to which these candidates have volunteered their time in the Evanston community. I know many have impressive degrees and business titles, but how many have gotten their hands dirty as PTA Presidents? Run philanthropies? Spearheaded grass roots groups to make changes in this town? Supported non-profit organizations through their leadership on boards or as event planners? Not everyone has the same type of experience serving the community or working and we need to be mindful of these differences so that we can create school boards that are more diverse. As an alum and parent of ETHS I don't want to see a board made up of CEOs. 

    1. serious credentials

      I want people on the school board with serious credentials and relavent managerial and oversight experience, not people who voluneered at the bake sale or were involved in a wrongheaded effort to create another school that district 65 could not afford.

    2. Role of board member

      We must keep in mind that the role of a board member is to hire and evaluate the superintendent, set goals for the district and monitor and evaluate programs to ensure the district goals are being met.

      We do not need board members to micromanage the administration and staff. ETHS has dedicated professionals who are highly trained and accomplished in their profession.

      Adult volunteers can serve in many helpful ways at ETHS including Boosters Club, Parents Engaged, Tutors, Parent Ambassadors and there are many, many other ways that ETHS can utilize your talents. 

  5. Faith restored

    The comments for both this article and the last should be a reminder to our elected school board (and the administration of ETHS) that a very discerning community is watching, and we care deeply about our schools.  We're not going to be satisfied with crony politics and the substitution of selective advantage over the public good, at least not when you make it so obvious that is the case.  Thank you to the good citizens who stepped forward to give the board and this community a deep field of qualified people for the job.

  6. Goal: Have the Best Operating D202 Board

    As it was already stated, please let us not get into the specifics of “voting” for each candidate, but rather focus on what is needed to have the best operating school board for Evanston D202. There really has not been any discussion of this nature so far – mostly arguments about candidates and the processes.

    In order to have a well functioning board, we should be looking at the strengths that existing D202 board members bring to making decisions and what skills or strengths are missing or what could be made stronger for the D202 Board and ETHS. For example, perhaps more expertise and knowledge in finance and fiscal responsibility, educational research and policy, and strategic goal planning and accountability might be needed. 

    Evanston is fortunate to have such a deep pool of talent to select from to enhance the D202 Board. Many of these exceptional proposed candidates can provide expertise in these areas to strengthen the Board, but more information is needed for the public to choose. However, the board has much more knowledge of all of these candidates if they choose to use it.

    So instead of voting on a specific person, let us help and encourage the board members to write down their goals and what skills are needed to balance and compose the best possible Board that is needed for D202 today. They should be able to agree on these attributes even if they can not agree on a specific candidate. Another meeting with the Board and public is warranted before the time runs out (July 11) to have this discussion.  This type of information will also be useful if the Regional Superintendent of Schools has to make a decision. Otherwise, Evanston will have lost its chance to be thoughtful and effective in providing a new D202 board member. 

  7. D202 board choices

    I agree with the comments appreciating the depth of experience and interest of these candidates. What is missing, for me, is a sense of where the candidates fall on the more divisive and complicated issues that the Board is struggling with.  Specifically, how to address the achievement gap while maintaining a challenging curriculum for the students at the middle and upper middle achievement levels (e.g. Addressing the pressure to take more AP classes then desired solely because the "earned honors" classes are not rigorous enough). Also, looking to see recognition of the need to intervene at early grade levels to best effect the achievement gap (I.e. continue co-efforts with D65).

  8. Let’s do the right thing
    I think the two former ETHS teachers or Betsy Burns are my three favorites. These candidates clearly are heavily involved in the educational space and would likely add value to the Board.

    Agree that Anne Sills is a polarizing choice and one the Board to avoid.

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