EVANSTON, IL — Minutes after the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board voted unanimously Monday to appoint a new member to fill a vacant seat, another vacancy opened up.
Anya Tanyavutti announced her immediate resignation at Monday’s regular meeting nearly six years since she was first appointed to the board. Two of those years were spent as the board president, and three as its vice president.
Tanyavutti said she was quitting the board seven months shy of the end of her term to move into a new youth development job and work on some writing projects.
Earlier this month, Tanyavutti floated the idea of resigning her school board seat as she sought to be named 2nd Ward alderman by Mayor Daniel Biss, who appointed Krissie Harris instead.
Tanyavutti delivered a 14-minute statement recounting years on the District 65 board, where she was at first received with “dismissal and some irritation, she said.
Under former Superintendent Paul Goren, she recalled, the district had an ineffective culture and climate and been harming and excluding non-white students.
“That guaranteed in 2016 that any Black or Brown child and family that came to District 65 would be educated four grade levels below their white peers,” Tanyavutti said. “The District 65 educational caste system, the human rights violation, had been normalized as ‘good schools.'”
During her six years of board service, Tanyavutti said, “the values for human rights, transparency and inclusion have thrived for all stakeholders,” and the board has actualized its vision of human rights for everyone.
Although the vast majority of the community is composed of supporters of human rights, some people in the district have sought to block its progress, the outgoing board member said.
“These folks have gone to all lengths, including lies, media attacks, lynch mob-like activities, undemocratic behaviors — to all lengths — to stop progress for our children’s human rights,” Tanyavutti said.
Tanyavutti was first appointed to fill a vacancy on the District 65 school board in October 2016. The following spring, she ran unopposed for the final two years of an unexpired term. She and a pair of other board members then ran unopposed in April 2019, winning four-year terms on the board that were due to end next spring.
District officials did not immediately release information about the application process to fill Tanyavutti’s former seat.
Later in Monday’s meeting, the board voted to fill a vacancy created by last month’s resignation of Marquise Weatherspoon, who spent less than 14 months on the board after she was herself appointed to fill a vacant board seat.
Tracy Olasimbo, the family engagement coordinator at the Evanston Public Library, was named the board’s newest member.
Olasimbo is an advocate for equity in education, an experienced program leader and a skilled facilitator who is passionate about fostering cultural awareness in order to build more inclusive and equitable environments, according to district representatives.
Board President Sergio Hernandez said the district was fortunate to be able to welcome Olasimbo to its school board.
“She is a leader and a community advocate whose commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and access for all community members aligns with the board’s vision and mission to embed, operationalize, and normalize success for ALL District 65 students, families and staff,” Hernandez said in a statement after the meeting.
After Olasimbo and a dozen other Evanston residents applied to be the board’s pick for the vacant seat, their applications were obtained by the Evanston RoundTable through a public records request.
According to Olasimbo’s application, she is a District 65 graduate and the parent of a current district student. In addition to her work with the local library, she has also been an equity consultant for YWCA Evanston, the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations.
Olasimbo suggested board members should ensure they are supporting each other and the superintendent in public while also holding one another accountable, the RoundTable reported.
“I am thrilled to be the newest addition to the District 65 School Board,” she said. “I’m even more excited to collaborate with each board member, Dr. Horton, and administration to continue the challenging work to shift systems and structures, while elevating the educational experience for every student and their families.”