Chicago school board candidates submit signatures: 'It was a hustle'

Prospective candidates took turns presenting their piles of papers for counting; officials had to confirm at least 1,000 signatures before they could be submitted. Candidates have until 5 p.m. next Monday to file.

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A couple dozen hopefuls stand in line to file their nomination petitions with city election officials Monday.

A couple dozen hopefuls filed their nomination petitions with city election officials Monday in the Loop for the official kickoff to the first-ever Chicago school board races.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Kimberly Brown showed up early Monday morning to submit the signatures she collected to run for Chicago’s school board in District 4 — so early that the doors were closed and windows were covered with brown paper.

Her taxi driver told her they must have gone to the wrong place, but she was sure that wasn’t the case after preparing for this day for months.

When the doors eventually opened, Brown was first in line among a couple dozen hopefuls who filed their nomination petitions with city election officials in the Loop for the official kickoff to the first-ever Chicago school board races.

Prospective candidates took turns presenting their piles of papers for counting; officials had to confirm at least 1,000 signatures before they could be submitted. Candidates have until 5 p.m. next Monday to file.

Some spoke with representatives from various special interest groups who were there observing, like the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, Chicago Teachers Union and Leadership with Educational Equity. Others soaked in the moment with family and friends.

Chicago School Board candidate Jason Dones, representing District 3, along with his son, Benicio, file paperwork to run for the CPS elected school board Monday at the Chicago Voting Supersite at 191 N. Clark St. in the Loop.

Chicago School Board candidate Jason Dones, representing District 3, along with his son, Benicio, file paperwork to run for the CPS elected school board Monday at the Chicago Voting Supersite at 191 N. Clark St. in the Loop.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Jason Dónes, a CPS graduate and former teacher, said “it was a hustle” to get signatures to run in District 3 on the Northwest Side, but he appreciated the education conversations he had with parents and educators during the process.

“I’m politically green, I don’t really know politics; I’m learning quickly. But I know education, I know schools,” Dónes said. “The theme I’ve experienced at all those levels and all those roles since I started is our schools are struggling to be fully staffed and fully funded. We’re stretching teachers and stretching dollars.”

He’s a parent member of the Moos Elementary Local School Council, where they recently had to “decide between resource monitors for recess time or math curriculum that our math teachers really wanted.

“That’s not a decision [we] should have to make,” Dónes said.

Anna Mangahas (left to right), Karen Goldner, School Board candidate Ebony DeBerry, District 2, and her son, Caleb DeBerry, take a group photo.

Anna Mangahas (left to right), Karen Goldner, School Board candidate Ebony DeBerry, District 2, and her son, Caleb DeBerry, take a group photo as Ebony DeBerry starts filing nomination petitions to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot Monday morning at the Chicago Voting Supersite at 191 N. Clark St. in the Loop.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Caleb DeBerry, 21, spent the past few weeks knocking on doors asking for signatures for his mom, Ebony DeBerry, to run in District 2 on the Far North Side. He said it was a “relief” to reach this point and watch his mom file her petitions.

“When the school board bill was signed, I kind of suggested it to her [to run], but she kind of laughed me away,” Caleb DeBerry said. “And then when we got closer to it … she’s a community organizer and she noticed there wasn’t a lot of buzz happening in our area, so she decided somebody needed to go and run.”

Caleb DeBerry said he plans to help campaign this summer before he heads back to Howard University in Washington, D.C. Ebony DeBerry said she’s looking to build on her experience as a CPS alum, a parent of a CPS alum and her work recruiting parent volunteers for CPS schools.

“I have so many relationships with parents and teachers and administrators, and they’re the stakeholders of decisions made by the elected school board,” Ebony DeBerry said. “So I would be accountable to that community and making sure they’re setting the priorities.”

Yesenia López, a candidate in District 7 on the Southwest Side, said she wants to give immigrant families like hers a voice, particularly those with mixed residency statuses who might not be able to vote. She’s also focused on improving special education services, including hiring more Spanish speakers.

“It’s important to have relationships already within the community. Knowing that information and people you can go to.”

Lopez has never run for office herself, but she has some background in government and politics and was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García. Lopez has worked for Garcia’s campaign as well as Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s, where she was the Latino outreach director. She has also worked for Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya and now is a staffer in the Illinois secretary of state’s office.

Recently retired science teacher Karen Zaccor is running in District 4 on the north lakefront, where she helped open Uplift Community High School in Uptown.

A longtime activist with the Northside Action for Justice group, Zaccor years ago helped advocate for an elected school board. She said friends and colleagues convinced her to run for the board, and it was “humbling” to see people helping her gather signatures and campaign.

“It’ll be so great to be out talking to people, hearing from them about what they’re interested in, what they’re concerned about, and then sharing ideas,” Zaccor said.

Chicago School Board candidate Kimberly Brown, District 4, files nomination petitions Monday to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot at the Chicago Voting Supersite at 191 N. Clark St. in the Loop.

Chicago School Board candidate Kimberly Brown, District 4, files nomination petitions Monday to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot at the Chicago Voting Supersite at 191 N. Clark St. in the Loop.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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