Andy Bezaitis is an electrical engineer running his first campaign for election to the Evanston Township High School District 202 board. Here are his answers to the questions Patch posed to every District 202 candidate.
1. How long have you lived in Evanston?
I grew up in Skokie-Evanston, and am a graduate of Timber Ridge Elementary School, Chute Middle School and Evanston Township High School. ETHS was transformative for me. I am the son of immigrant parents who valued education and moved to Skokie-Evanston so their children could go to ETHS. I benefitted immensely from all ETHS had to offer, and found my way to a successful life with the guidance and support of my excellent teachers. Because of my passion for ETHS and my personal experience here, my wife, Jen Coyne, and I moved to Evanston so our three children could have a similar experience, filled with opportunities to reach their full potential in our unique and richly diverse community.
2. What elected positions have you held previously, if any? Have you ever run for office before?
Click here for information on the other District 202 candidates.
3. What experience/skills would you bring to the school board from your professional or personal life?
I bring to District 202:
- my experience as an ETHS student and my resulting passion for our school;
- an MBA from the University of Chicago and 20 years’ experience managing organizations, and working with boards including strategic planning, financial performance and personnel management. I have seen the benefits of a transparent process, including goal setting, data evaluation and results-oriented focus.
- an educational and professional background in technology. I hold both a bachelors and masters degree in Electrical Engineering, and I have worked continuously on the cutting edge of the technology field. Because of my technology background, I am a firm believer in the importance of technological resources for ETHS. Not just for STEM (science, technology, education and math), but for its creative use in the humanities (English, history and sociology), communication (creation of pictorial, journalistic, video and audio content for digital dissemination), and the arts (theater, music and visual.)
4. What do you think are the biggest issues for District 202? How would you address those?
First, I believe we must establish attainable, measurable annual goals for our administration that focus it on accomplishing the District’s 2012-2015 goals. Then we must evaluate the administration and the Board based on those goals. Whether the administration and board succeed or fall short, we must openly discuss our performance and revise our plans in accordance with performance.
Second, it is my hope that each student at ETHS has an adult figure (a teacher, counselor, coach, administrator or mentor) who knows that student’s dreams, abilities, and limitations and has the ability and resources to support that student throughout his or her four years. I will support both academic and extracurricular initiatives that accomplish this. Continuing and creatively expanding the excellent programs that are part of the Career and Technical Education Department is part of this. So are curricular and extracurricular arts programs that provide a tremendous path for many children. They engage on many different levels: from drawing and painting to computer design; from violin performance to composing videos on YouTube; from creative and journalistic writing to publishing the online and hardcopy Evanstonian. These endeavors are not only valuable as artistic expression, but are paths to a job and career in the 21st century. I feel similarly about sports programs. All provide positive social relationships with other students, and multi year mentorships with instructors, coaches, bandleaders that are IRREPLACEABLE. Once children are engaged in extracurricular activities - they have another reason to come to school, be prepared, and excel. Children are unique – one shoe does not fit all. ETHS must provide MORE options for children, not fewer.
Third, I believe we must continue to work with District 65 on collaborative board operations – seeking opportunities for improving student transitions and student achievement. From a financial perspective, Districts 65 and 202 must explore all opportunities for collaboration to minimize the financial burden on taxpayers. Substantively, ETHS alone cannot “fix” the achievement for students not meeting standards or reaching their maximum potential. We must work with District 65 and other Community Partners – YOU, Youth Job Center, Evanston Public Library, FAAM, Family Focus, and our community centers providing afterschool care to preschool through middle school children (Fleetwood-Jourdain and Robert Crown) – to create systemic solutions.
5. What will you do to improve graduation rates and job placement for those students who do not go on to college right away (if at all)?
I addressed this question in response to Question #4, because I believe it is one of the biggest issues for District 202. We need to engage students in interest areas that speak to them, both curricular and extracurricular.
6. What will you do to improve safety in and around ETHS?
I believe ETHS is a physically safe school. Security has been expanded and I believe our children are safe from physical harm when they are inside the school’s walls. The violence in the surrounding neighborhood, which affects physical safety in the sports fields, parking lots and avenues of ingress/egress must be addressed by the school together with community as a whole. The Board must insist on continued and expanded strong partnerships with the Evanston Police. It also must continue to improve its dissemination of information to parents, guardians and the community about incidents that take place on campus and in the immediately surrounding neighborhood.
In addition to physical safety, I am concerned about the emotional safety of our children. I commend ETHS administrators, teachers, coaches and counselors for their support of our children grieving the death of their classmate, Dajae Coleman. I also commend the administration’s public handling of a recent anti-gay posting on school property.