Sarah Eckmann never considered running for a seat on the school board before, but then 2020 happened. With last year’s presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic, “everything kind of exploded,” including people’s public opinions, she said.
As Eckmann looked closely at her own community, she realized among the candidates vying for four seats on River Forest School District 90 school board, three of them were incumbents. Board members Nicole C.P. Thompson, Stacey Williams and Katie Avalos are hoping to retain their positions, while 39-year-old Eckmann joins Scott Hall as one of two newcomers.
With that, Eckmann wanted to give residents a choice and believed there’s no time like the present.
“Now, I’m going to do it,” she said.
Born and raised in River Forest, Eckmann is coming into the race with a vested interest in her hometown. She is a product of District 90, having attended Willard Elementary and Roosevelt Middle schools before heading over to Oak Park and River Forest High School. And, when the time came for Eckmann and her husband to raise their family, the couple returned to River Forest nearly seven years ago.
Eckmann said one of her greatest assets is her ability to work with people. As a nurse, she puts her patients first, often listening to them and tending to their needs. She also works with other healthcare professionals to make sure her patients are cared for properly. Eckmann said she would continue to embody those traits if elected to the board.
Throughout her interview with Wednesday Journal, Eckmann spoke about the district’s need to think forward and plan ahead. With the pandemic still ongoing, Eckmann believes mitigating the coronavirus’ challenges remains at the forefront, and District 90 must keep on providing social-emotional resources to help students recover.
“Everybody is kind of suffering in their own way right now,” said Eckmann, who worries about the students struggling with e-learning or who have lost touch with “normal childhood things.” It’s going to be a really tough year, assessing and picking up the pieces from the pandemic.”
Eckmann noted district teachers need more support. “They’ve been through the wringer this year with everybody pushing and pulling them in different directions,” she said.
Eckmann said she views teachers’ roles similarly to nurses. “You have to do everything for everybody, and then when something goes wrong, you’re the one that’s going to be blamed,” she said. “I think teachers are going to get some of that blame if things aren’t turned around quickly after the pandemic, if things aren’t back to normal right now.”
Another priority on Eckmann’s list is moving District 90’s equity efforts further. The district must continue its work on its anti-racism and recognizing implicit bias, she said. These are lessons that should be cultivated at home and school in order to create a positive, safe place for students of all backgrounds, she said.
In addition, Eckmann also shared true equity is about providing all children with the resources they need to thrive and succeed. “Our students aren’t just test scores,” she said, adding that equity is about understanding students as a whole.
With the April 6 consolidated general election just days away, Eckmann offers up a reason why voters should choose her.
“The decisions that are made now and in the next four years will affect our grandchildren and the next generation of children,” she said. “We need to keep progress in mind.
“Progress is not inevitable. We can move backwards, so we really need to put aside personal needs for the greater community, and I am that candidate who will work together with others and strive for a better future.”