EVANSTON, IL — Voters in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will elect a majority of the district’s seven-member board to four-year terms next month. Eight candidates, including three incumbents, are seeking four seats on the board in the April 6 municipal election. The new board will be seated at the May 3 board meeting. Ahead of
EVANSTON, IL — Voters in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will elect a majority of the district’s seven-member board to four-year terms next month.
Eight candidates, including three incumbents, are seeking four seats on the board in the April 6 municipal election. The new board will be seated at the May 3 board meeting.
Ahead of the vote, Evanston Patch provided questionnaires to all candidates on the ballot. Patch is publishing all responses submitted verbatim, and in the order they have been received.
Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan
Age (as of election day)
Town/city of residence
Dawes and Chute, District 65
My wife, Becca, and I have lived in Evanston for 18 years where we are raising our three kids. We have a sixth grader at Chute and two fifth graders at Dawes.
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
I hold an MA from DePaul University in Human Services and Counseling, and a BA from DePauw University in History with Minors in African American Studies and Education.
I am an equity, diversity and inclusion consultant with schools, companies, and nonprofit organizations. For 15 years, I taught classes on Civic Engagement, Diversity, Gender and Agents of Change at DePaul and I served as the Director of Programs at Northwestern University’s Women’s Center for 8 years. In addition, I am a co-founder of the PTA Equity Project, a former Board member of Cherry Preschool, a softball and basketball coach, and a Girl Scout Leader.
Previous or current elected or appointed office
I currently serve as Vice-President on the District 65 School Board
The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
I want to be part of transforming District 65 schools into places where all of our students are valued, welcomed, included, respected and equally successful. I will dedicate my time and talents to work towards the elimination of the gap in opportunity to achieve and to create school communities where every student feels they belong. I want to ensure that all District 65 students do not face racial predictability in their present or their future.
I believe every student deserves to have access to resources in their home school and will use an equity lens to address our challenges around student assignment and fiscal management.
We have difficult decisions ahead, and I am committed to making sure our conversations focus on working smarter so that our financial challenges do not impact the quality of education provided and equity remains at the center of decision-making. In looking ahead, my focus will include bussing, a 5th Ward school, emergent bilingual services, and special education
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I am passionate about education which is the focus of my professional life. I am an equity, diversity and inclusion consultant and have developed a specialty working with schools and school districts. These experiences informed my perspective, built my capacity to center equity in decision-making, and strengthened my skill in developing systems and practices that benefit all our children. For these reasons I believe I am an asset to the District 65 Board.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform
I remain committed to supporting the safe reopening and return to school for District 65 students, teachers and administrators. By closely following the direction of the CDC, ISBE, IDPH and medical advisors, I will continue to work closely with District 65 leadership to reopen schools as safely as possible for all of our students, teachers, administrators, and staff.
The pandemic has exacerbated the challenges for our most vulnerable students and their families. I have consistently advocated for the inclusion of students with IEPs and 504s in our reopening prioritization plans because I know how remote learning is falling short of meeting many students’ needs. However, our failures to serve our special education population cannot be blamed on the pandemic alone. There is critical work that needs to be done to ensure our special education students have an equitable experience in our district, and I commit to giving voice to that need and working towards solutions with educators and families.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
First, I had the opportunity to serve as a consultant for our district for five years working with teams at each school. I have a solid understanding of the challenges that are unique to each building and those that need district-wide solutions.
Second, I am proud of the work that the current board did to bring on the current superintendent, Dr. Devon Horton. Using an equity lens the board worked to substantially increase stakeholder input to develop a leadership profile that reflected the needs of our district. Dr. Horton was selected as a visionary leader with the demonstrated skills and experience that our district needs.
Third , I have been working collaboratively to advocate over many years for District 65 to approve gender support policy and procedures. We must be committed to addressing the needs and concerns of transgender and gender expansive employees to ensure safe, affirming, and healthy workplaces and school environments. By approving a new gender support policy, we are creating an environment that respects and values all staff and fosters understanding of gender identity and expression within the school community to ensure that all employees have a safe and welcoming work environment that is free of discrimination and harassment, where they can bring their whole selves to work, reach their fullest potential, and provide healthy models for students.
Why should voters trust you?
I care deeply about the success of our students and our schools, and I have invested significant time and energy in that success.
For example, I am a co-founder of the PTA Equity Project (PEP). PEP began as an idea five years ago, created to ensure that all students in our district get the most benefit from PTA resources regardless of which school they attend. In the early years, PEP reallocated fundraising dollars from the PTAs with the highest revenues to better equalize revenues across District 65 PTAs. Our successful pilot in 2019 allowed for the creation of scholarship funds, better access to before and after school enrichments, and increased opportunities for community building within schools. In the spring of 2020, PEP collectively mobilized to provide supports for struggling families by raising $500,000 to be distributed by principals and social workers to families in need. During the fall of 2020, all District 65 school PTAs voted to participate in the joint One Fund Initiative.
If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office a success?
I will diligently work with administrators to support a plan for a safe reopening and return to school for District 65 students, teachers, and administrators.
I will support a critical examination of the impact of resources and programs available at every school to ensure that students’ access to what they need aligns with their home school. This will include, but is not limited to bussing, a 5th ward school, emergent bilingual services, special education, and more.
I will engage in the vital conversations and decisions to navigate District 65 through the looming financial crisis while keeping equity at the center of our decision making.
What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the handling of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?
I share a commitment with fellow board members to making important, necessary, and possibly unpopular decisions that are critical to the future of the district. We will not just ‘kick the can’ forward to the next group of leaders.
I am committed to making sure our conversations focus on working smarter so that our financial challenges do not impact the quality of education provided and equity remains at the center of decision-making.
Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?
I unequivocally support a school system where Black Lives Matter and are treated as such. I believe when people’s humanity is repeatedly ignored and goes unaffirmed, protest is an essential tool to challenge unjust systems.
White supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, all collude to not allow any of us to be our best selves, to not be fully authentic in every space we occupy and not be able to thrive in the ways we need to. We have to look at intersectionality and how people are forced to choose between identities in our spaces. I want a school community where kids can be celebrated and loved everyday.
When we strive to have a sustained and positive school climate we must examine all of the ways our school community can allow us to feel welcomed, included, and affirmed or not. How are we fostering positive connections, relationships and interactions between students? What ways can we strengthen the relationship between all students and staff? What strategies are we using to improve the relationships between the school and every family? How are we fostering strong collaborative relationships between staff? What are we doing to understand how our own identities and experiences situate us as we navigate issues of trust, respect, healthy conflict, collaboration and accountability?
Do you think the current board has done enough to support racial equality, and if not, what specifically should be done to do so?
We are at a critical moment in our efforts toward equity. I want to be part of transforming our schools into a place where all students are valued, welcomed, included, respected, and equally successful, where they are not faced with racial predictability in their present or their futures.
There are many district programs and interventions that are already in progress to narrow the racialized opportunity gap. I want to highlight eight:
Investment in Early Childhood Education and progress towards Kindergarten readiness.
Diversifying our workforce with the help of a full-time HR Diversity Specialist and a teacher residency program.
Relationship building with an emphasis on school culture and climate, through investment in EDI training to recognize bias and racism in our operational approach and to foster a sense of belonging for all students, teachers, and families.
Reducing threats to students’ emotional safety including reducing racial disparity in discipline through changes to suspension, SRO, and embedding restorative practices.
Rigorous instructional practices including culturally responsive pedagogy, MAP growth, and math curriculum, focusing on moving dependent learners to independent learners.
Curricular shifts that reflect student experience and historical accuracy.
Addressing racial disparities in SPED.
Addressing program alignment including school assignment and the need for a school in the 5th Ward.
What are your thoughts on the district’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic? Are you in favor of remote learning, in-person learning or a hybrid of the two? Do you support a mask mandate for students and school staff, or mandatory coronavirus testing for both students and staff?
We all want to have educators and students together in a space that is safe. We all want to fully reopen our schools. And, I am proud of our decisions to be cautious with people’s lives.
After safe return to schools, the next piece is to see what costs have been for our students and make sure we put a robust plan in place so whatever learning loss has happened and whatever disparate impact, we make plans to eradicate that as quickly as possible.
When the vaccine is available to them, do you support mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for students and staff?
Our focus has been on ensuring access to vaccines for all district staff and providing robust support of the personal and public health benefits, as well as the science around safety around vaccinations.
After ensuring vaccine availability and supporting vaccine education, staff have and will be required to return in-person to meet the needs of students.
Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?
Not that I can think of!
The best advice ever shared with me was ____________
As we were about to have our first child, a friend advised us to start with the easiest thing; you can always make things more complicated later. This advice was given in regards to bedtime routines and feeding rituals, but proved invaluable when we found ourselves with three kids under two. You may need to differentiate for each kid because they need different things, but start with simple and build from there.