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Niles Township Federation of Teachers and Support Staff Endorse Four School Board Candidates

Apr 3, 2023

The D219 teacher’s union (Niles Township Federation of Teachers and Support Staff) (NTFTSS) announced their endorsement of four candidates for the D219 School Board Election: Kennya “Ken” Durr, Mateo Farzaneh, Celia Stennett and Amber Wood. This decision was voted on by the executive board of the union and sent out to the community on March 24.

The union represents teachers and support staff in District 219 and vote for their leadership. The NTFTSS does not represent administration or outsourced employees.

In order to prepare for voting, members of the board sat in at the School Board Forum held at Niles West, and candidates met with and visited the executive board of the union to discuss their platforms. Five of the candidates also completed a questionnaire sent out by the union that included questions on candidates’ experience, their thoughts on D219 as a district and what their plans are if elected.

“From there we decide as an executive board if the candidates align with our philosophy on public education and labor rights. Do the candidates want to be partners and collaborate with the staff and students at D219, or do they have a vision that does not include a partnership? After a lengthy discussion amongst our union executive board, we decide whether we are interested in moving forward with an endorsement,” NTFTSS president and Niles North math teacher Ankur Joshi said.

Some of the ideals the union looked for when evaluating candidates were their support of diversity and equity among the community, their respect for educators and their willingness to create a partnership with the union to better D219. The union was also looking for candidates who were against the banning of books and instead saw them as a means to inspire and empower people.

“We are really impressed with the four candidates we have endorsed. All four have experience either working in schools and/or on boards. All four candidates have made it a top priority to support teachers and students, especially those from marginalized communities.  We do feel that these candidates understand that supporting teachers and staff is integral to the success of our students and our schools,” NTFTSS vice president at Niles West and math teacher Matthew Fahrenbacher said.

“All of the candidates value public education, labor rights, equity and inclusion. They value students, staff and community voices. They value listening and supporting those who work in the schools. They value supporting equity-based initiatives and they have a passion for supporting educators and students while embracing both as partners in furthering our district. We have some of the best schools in the country and we hope these candidates maintain our high standards while providing more opportunities and access points for students to have the best possible high school experience and education in the country,” Joshi said.

Members of the executive board of the union also expressed what they hope the elected candidates will do for our community.

“One important change we hope the future board will consider that will make all of our schools better is the insourcing of safety staff. Our safety staff are often the first and last people students interact with each day, and they are vital to making our schools run safely and efficiently. But, because they are contracted out to an outside firm, they often have low pay and limited benefits, making it difficult for them to live in our community.  We should have safety staff that are District 219 employees, just like many of our neighboring districts,” Fahrenbacher said.

The outcome of this election will influence students, employees and community members.

Physical education teacher at Niles West Nicole Reynolds lives in the community and has kids that attend District 69. Reynolds has been very involved in the D219 Equity Slate and hosted meet and greets with other members of the community and has been staying up to date with the recent board meetings to stay informed for election day.

“I think [voting] is important as a staff and community member because not only will this affect my job, but also our community. I just hope that those elected will find a way to have the board come together in general and make good decisions for all students and teachers in our schools. [I also want them to] have an equity mind/lens while looking [at] things that are brought to them and set our district in the direction it needs to go to ensure all students have a safe and comfortable learning environment,” Reynolds said.

Elections for D219 School Board will be held on April 4th, and only four seats are open to be filled. Consider voting if you are over 18 years of age, and check out the School Board Forum as well as the teacher union’s recommendations to learn more about the candidates.

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