Board Brilliance: D219’s candidates shine in virtual forum

The April 6 school board election will see three incumbents and four newbies vying to represent the local trifecta of high schools during one of the most challenging eras of the district’s history.

Undaunted and unyieldingly ambitious, the seven candidates gave voters a fascinating glimpse into their campaign platforms and potential policy priorities should they win a seat.

The transcript for the event may be viewed in full here.

For some lighter reading, the NSN has compiled quotes that most completely represent each candidate from the forum.

Editor’s note: Last edition featured typed responses from Elana Jacobs, Irena Petryk, Joseph Nowik, and Richard Evonitz. Kathleen Boyle’s quotes were recorded in a live interview with a NSN reporter.


Naema Abraham, incumbent

Image source: Naema Abraham via Facebook

I was asked by an Assyrian community member to run for this position to represent the Assyrians. We have counselors in the schools, but my experience with the counselors is they were more like academic advisors, and I would really like to see more resources that actually deal with mental health. Because we have so many different languages, [bilingual teacher] applicants should get priority. We could recruit from our own backyard. I have given a lot of thought as to why I want to continue to serve, and the answer is: it’s the students. Every decision and initiative we move forward is to benefit the students. Programs like career advancement, equity training, and mindfulness–those were all unanimously passed because we had the kids at the forefront of our decisions.


Kathleen W. Boyle, non-incumbent

Image credit: Kathleen W. Boyle via Facebook

My commitment is to promote excellent and equitable opportunity, good health and safety to everyone who lives, works, and grows in D219. We can’t possibly comprehend what it is to be in the skin of the students who feel that they’re not seen,  not heard, and sometimes feel targeted. There have been 150 public comments to this board asking for the release of disciplinary records that weren’t released–it only was after a Freedom of Information act request. I think we need to do a better job of acknowledging our shortcomings and providing solutions. My top priorities are to expand programs for our disabled students and specifically physical education opportunities. We need licensed clinical social workers to provide mandatory well being checks for our students, and organized activities at home and in person. With over 30 years of professional experience…I’m prepared for board business on day one.


Richard Evonitz, incumbent

Image credit: Richard Evonitz via Facebook.

The things I’m most proud include implementing a plan to eliminate the district’s long-term debt, saving property tax payers millions of dollars. Advancing the cause of equity by diverse hiring, addressing student growth gaps, and supporting equity training for all district staff. And finally, approving upgrades for our facilities, including the bridges program for our special needs education. When you look at the current makeup of D219 staff and teachers, they reflect what the community looked like 20 years ago. There’s a terrific opportunity that is coming for the district to think about how they’re approaching retention and acquisition of diverse candidates. with every decision you need to ask yourself is this good for the students. As a district we’re in the business of supporting and growing the potential of our students. Our schools are remarkable places because they’re full of remarkable students led by remarkable staff and directed by skilled administrators. 


Elana Jacobs, non-incumbent

Image credit: Elana Jacobs via Facebook

I understand the real strain for social emotional [struggles] for students and teachers during covid 19. [We must] increase the amount of counselors and social workers to check in with students and families, creative SEL programming, home visits, and having reduced screen time. I also put [budget] priority for [sic] special needs students, ELL students, and [the] Bridges programs. Also for clubs that would provide emotional learning because this will help during a pandemic, that will also make it a little bit easier to get through a brutally hard year. I want to implement an equity lens to stakeholders at D219 and advance diverse perspectives for a common cause as a proponent of anti-racism training. Also implementing anti-racist teaching and linguistic diversity at my own school.


Joseph S. Nowik, incumbent

Image credit: Joseph S. Nowik via Facebook.

We need social workers and career advocates because that will be critical for our students to get back on track. Serving for 6 years I have a lot to be proud of on this board. When we shifted the district from a college-ready mission statement to one where we embrace diversity and a career track and let kids pursue their fullest potential, that was outstanding. I’m very proud of the efforts I engaged for the bridges program. These young adults w/ special needs were housed in three rooms, and now they have a building they can call their own. Eliminate spring break this semester and dedicate the time to recovery. Bring in additional social workers and career advocates, and expand summer programs complete with sports and theater to show everyone that D219 is back. To me, nothing beats a complete Chicago hotdog. All you folks from New York, sorry, you’re missing out. Chicago all the way. Sorry.


Irena Petryk, non-incumbent

Image credit: Irena Petryk via Facebook

I am a graduate of Niles West high school and currently study at Northwestern University. I work … a nonprofit organization. I’m running because as a former student I have a unique perspective on the issues in our district.  I want to make sure we’re not just focusing on the kids who are in hybrid learning, but on those who continue remote learning to ensure that every student has the same high quality of education. I think we should encourage girls to step into those spaces and pursue STEM. It’s all well and good to hire teachers of color, but we really need to focus on retaining [them]. What my mission for the board boils down to is equity, safety, and accountability. I want to make sure that all students have the opportunities they need, and we can do that by funding programs that close the opportunity gap.


Ross Sawyers, non-incumbent

Image credit: Columbia College

The only way to prepare our students for their future role as leaders is to include them in a collaborative process that includes all voices and points of view. It’s important to consider how we hand off our leadership positions to the next generation, and I’m excited to see them take their roles as leaders. We need to provide models of success for [LGBT] students such as we provide models for our cis[gender] white male students. I just like a hot hotdog with cold ketchup. [Special needs] students should be our priority for in-person learning before any other students. My top three priorities are student experience, student experience, and student experience. The way we should prioritize the way things are funded is if they will positively impact the highest number of students.