Salem, Wilkins and Hernandez win D65 Board of Education election


Illustration by Lily Ogburn

The Chicago mayoral runoff between Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson occurred Tuesday following the nine-person general election Feb. 28.

Jacob Wendler, Copy Editor

Omar Salem, Mya Wilkins (Kellogg ’06) and Sergio Hernandez Jr. won the three open positions on the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education Tuesday in a tight five-way race.        

Salem, a teacher in the department of special education at Niles North High School and a member of the city’s Equity and Empowerment Commission, won the highest percentage of any candidate with 24.68% of the vote. Salem told The Daily he wants to prioritize district-level communication, fiscal responsibility and fostering an inclusive classroom environment during his term.

Wilkins and Hernandez both successfully defended incumbent seats; Wilkins has served on the board since she was appointed to fill a vacancy in October, and Hernandez has served since his appointment in 2017. Hernandez has also served as school board president for a year.

The three winners, elected to four-year terms, will join the four other members of the board who are not up for reelection.

Diversity, equity and inclusion policy was one of the most salient issues in Tuesday’s race, with candidates divided on the best approach to implementing anti-racist learning into curricula. Equity has long been a key issue in District 65 school board elections, with students, parents, educators and candidates highlighting places for improvement in past races.

Wilkins said Tuesday night she sees the results of the race as a vote of affirmation from the community for the board to continue the work it has begun.

“I think that there was a very clear difference and I think that we really came forward and talked about what our values are and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Wilkins said. “I think the voters for District 65 agreed that we need to continue doing the work that we’re doing and make sure we’re taking care of students.”

Wilkins said she hopes to focus on implementing and refining these policies that have been approved by the board.

All three successful candidates campaigned on bridging opportunity gaps and prioritizing fiscal responsibility, emphasizing their support for recently implemented anti-racism curricula. Wilkins and Salem both said raising children who attended District 65 schools has given them a unique lens into the issues that matter to students, parents and teachers in the community.

Salem was not immediately available for comment.  

District 65 parents John Martin and Ndona Muboyayi, whose children attended Evanston public schools, came in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Martin said he was surprised by the “maliciousness” of the election, but remained inspired by the voters during the campaign.

More than a dozen District 65 parents, teachers and students — including Wilkins, Hernandez and former school board President Anya Tanyavutti — organized Saturday to express their opposition to pushback against anti-racism education.

Martin denied allegations that he has been involved in a local organization that has campaigned against diversity and inclusion programs in education.

“It was a very robust campaign,” Martin said Tuesday night. “We saw a lot of passion in the community and certainly wish the best for and congratulations to the elected and wish the district the best of luck.”

Muboyayi finished sixth among eight candidates in her first bid for a seat on the board in 2021. 

Muboyayi was also not immediately available for comment. 

Hernandez, the first Latine president of the Board, said he’s excited to get back to work expanding the initiatives the board has put in place to address opportunity gaps and improve racial equity.

“We have a community that has spoken in favor of ensuring that we continue (to) operationalize equity and racial equity work in the school system and really trying to address the opportunity gaps via addressing the root causes,” Hernandez said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacob_wendler

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