School board member campaigns with D65 experience

Lensay Abadula

One of the first things discussed at Mary Erickson’s first meeting as an Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board member was the improvement of toilet stalls. Although it amused her children, Erickson was confident there would be more exciting things to come.

"It’s going to get better than this," she thought at the time. "It had to."

And it did. Erickson, 55, has been a school board member since 1997 and is running against six other candidates for one of four open seats.

Erickson said she hopes to alleviate the board’s current budget problems by acting on suggestions made by private financial consultants that analyzed District 65’s financial situation where applicable.

"We need to find ways to deliver the education in the vision the community has for its schools, but in a more economical way," Erickson said.

Erickson remains optimistic and said she feels District 65’s financial problems will improve.

"We are becoming more aware of where our dollars are going," she said.

Erickson, Medill ’72 and Kellogg ’79, hopes to work more closely with the university on a steady basis, instead of project-to-project.

"I would really like (the board) to foster … a broader and deeper relationship," she said.

Erickson said she hopes to draw from her experiences as a District 65 school board member and 26-year resident of Evanston if elected for another term.

"I have a perspective that has seen where we’ve been and how we’ve gotten to where we are, and I think that’s very important," she said.

Marian Casey, a delegate to the Candidate Nominating Committee — a group of volunteers that endorses school board candidates — said she values Erickson’s experience on the board.

"I think she is an experienced board member," Casey said. "I think because of that she takes ownership of the issues that come before the board."

Since joining the board, Erickson said she has found the greatest satisfaction from the development of the Two-Way Immersion Program, which improved performance among Latino students by teaching English- and Spanish-speaking students in the same classroom. Students are taught mostly in Spanish until the fourth grade when they are taught in both English and Spanish.

After a gun was found at Kingsley Elementary School Jan. 4, many parents questioned the administration’s response and communication with the community.

Erickson said she and other board members have learned from the incident and have implemented policy changes should similar incidents occur in the future.

Erickson said many parents may be unhappy with the board because they are unaware of all the board’s efforts.

"I think there (is) a lot of work done behind the scenes going on that is not so apparent to people," she said.

For Erickson, the Kingsley incident will not greatly effect the upcoming elections.

"I don’t think it’s a litmus test," she said.

Reach Lensay Abadula at [email protected]