Sergio Hernandez Jr., D65 board incumbent, talks equity-focused education and addressing racial disparities


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

Sergio Hernandez Jr. Hernandez is running for reelection to the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education.

Angeli Mittal, Print Managing Editor

Growing up, Sergio Hernandez Jr. said he found it challenging to navigate the American school system without strong bilingual services for his parents, both of whom are immigrants.

Hernandez said it is especially difficult for marginalized families to navigate changes as they move from primary to secondary education. That’s one of many reasons why he’s running for the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education, he said.

Hernandez currently serves as the first Latine president of the Board, and said one of his priorities is ensuring students and families are ready at every stage of their education. He’s now running for reelection on a platform directed at dissolving opportunity and affordability gaps, engaging students in the classroom and maintaining fiscal responsibility.

“We created a policy, a mission and vision and are now implementing strategies that are going to ensure that we operationalize equitable access to resources to empower our students, their families and our educators,” Hernandez said.

As equity lead of the Illinois State Board of Education’s project management department, Hernandez works on supporting multilingual learners and equipping school districts with resources to promote equity. He also serves on the Youth Job Center board to support those looking to pursue college and career opportunities after high school.

With District 65, Hernandez said he’s looking to help educators deliver a more culturally responsive, developmentally appropriate and rigorous curriculum as a way to eliminate the racial achievement gap.

“We’re really looking at transforming systems,” he said. “We need to address some of the system issues and barriers in order to ultimately and effectively address … opportunity gaps, as well as social and emotional learning gaps.”

Hernandez succeeded former Board President Anya Tanyavutti after her two-year tenure. Tanyavutti said he was a collaborative and consistent colleague.

She said Hernandez’s lived experience as an English language learner means he has distinctive ideas for inclusion, such as increasing the accessibility of board meetings through translations and interpretations.

“Sergio will continue to value the voices and the needs of vulnerable communities in (an) authentic and responsive way,” Tanyavutti said.

Hernandez said he’s excited about the new 5th Ward school, which he said will allow for a school that’s within walking distance for students in the predominantly Black ward.

Working with the city, institutional partners and Family Focus, he said these organizations could provide services needed for 5th Ward community members.

“I’m excited that we are righting a historical wrong,” Hernandez said. “What I’d like to see is continued collaboration … to really provide the best services.”

City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza said that as a Latina mother raising kids in Evanston, she cares about having a Board member to whom she’s comfortable giving feedback.

Mendoza said Hernandez has always taken the time to listen to her concerns. He seeks the same educational outcomes for Black and brown students as compared to their white peers, she said.

“I’m thankful to have somebody on the school board that looks like me and has the same life experiences as me,” Mendoza said. “I hope the city of Evanston understands the value in having someone who is representative of the larger community and (of) people who haven’t always had representation.”

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Twitter: @amittal27