'It's a huge statement': Social equity voices succeed in District 211 race
Two Black Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 school board candidates whose campaigns focused on social equity issues within the district appear to have won seats on the panel.
In fact, unofficial results put newcomer Curtis Bradley at the top of the eight-candidate field, with 8,192 votes, and Tim McGowan third, with 7,534. The only incumbent in the race, Anna Klimkowicz, sits second with 8,099 votes. Three seats were at stake in Tuesday's election.
The rest of the field included Jessica Hinkle with 7,290 votes, Kristen Steel with 5,469, Robi Vollkommer with 4,878, Denise Wilson with 3,793 and Roxanne Wittkamp with 1,912.
Bradley believes the clarity of his message resonated with the community and made him a popular choice in the voting booth.
"I would think that, true to my word, I always put the kids first, and voters looked at my track record and saw that I always put the kids first," he said.
The three top vote-getters also were endorsed by the district's teachers union. Bradley called that a sign that both sides could work together on behalf of students' needs on a variety of issues, including mental health.
McGowan said he aimed to amplify students' voices on issues of racial equity even before his campaign, and more recently on sexual harassment awareness and prevention.
With an unknown number of mail ballots still in play, McGowan was unwilling to claim victory Wednesday. But he was ready to speak about the meaning of his vote total.
"I'm humbled and I'm grateful that so many people felt I was the right man for the job," he said.
Given the national discussion on race and equity over the past year, McGowan said the support he and Bradley received says a lot.
"I think it's a huge statement," he said. "I think it shows what our community is."
District 211 began the school year with the creation of an equity team to study issues of equity gaps. Bradley believes the community's recognition of those gaps played a part in his success Tuesday and that his and McGowan's presence on the board is likely to be a strong influence on the work ahead.
"We have an advantage because we've lived those equity issues," Bradley said. "I think we'll bring some real-life points of view and real-life examples."
McGowan said it didn't take long to recognize the board's longest-serving member -- Klimkowicz -- as a potential ally in his campaign, praising her for her knowledge and transparency. He added that the equity issues the district has to address aren't deliberately created.
"I wouldn't blame it on the leadership, just the culture that we've been in," he said.
Both McGowan and Bradley also grew up in the community. McGowan said he was unaware of the role the board of education played when he was a student, but he believes today's students may gain a greater awareness of how the district works given their existing familiarity with him and Bradley.
"Representation matters," he said. "Children want to feel they're important."
Bradley added that he believes the students of today are generally more sophisticated and have already demonstrated knowledge this year of the board's role in their school experiences. He plans to expand that knowledge by reaching out to each campus.
Bradley insists that problems students bring to the board's attention won't linger.
"We're going to act swiftly," he said.