By Nona Tepper
Forest Park District 91 schools will have two new members and retain one who was up for re-election.
Voters chose incumbent Shannon Wood and newcomers Monique Cotton Yancy and Katherine Valleau to represent them on the school board in the D91's first contested race in recent history. Greg Mitchell, who was appointed to the board in September 2018, finished out of the running.
With all 11 precincts reporting — the final precinct's totals did not come in until after 10 p.m. on April 2 — Cotton Yancy received the most votes, with nearly 24 percent of ballots selecting her name. Vote totals will change slightly as mail and provisional ballots are tabulated in the coming days.
"It doesn't even seem real yet," Cotton Yancy said.
She has a particular interest in special education — since she's had two children with individualized education plans (IEPs) — as well as the district's equity imperative, curriculum among other issues.
"I think people see me involved in things already so it's kind of a natural progression to run, and just having my face and name out there doing other things," Cotton Yancy said. She is involved in the Citizens Advisory Council, the Park District of Forest Park, the Diversity Commission and more.
She credits the success of Proviso Together — the incumbent slate for Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board — for inspiring her to run.
"If they wouldn't have run four years ago, I wouldn't have any idea how this process works," she said.
Wood, meanwhile, who received about 17 percent of the vote, said she felt relieved to be through with campaigning.
"It was fun, I got to meet some new people in Forest Park that I don't know, and I got to hear their questions and concerns, [but] it's hard. It's very out of my comfort zone to just go and talk to people randomly. It was a good experience for sure," she said, adding that she is looking forward to continuing the district's equity work. She hopes to drive greater engagement between the board and community.
"I want parents to feel heard, whether that's an email or at a meeting. I want them to feel they're respectfully heard," she said. "I would like someone to follow up with them about any question they ask at a board meeting. Our main goal is what's best for the kids. Parents want what we want and so we have to listen to parents."
Valleau received about 16 percent of the vote. She is currently a Forest Park business owner but worked as a D91 teacher and union head for many years. She was unable to comment on her win.
"My heart lies in education and I am ecstatic to get back to the work and vocation I care so deeply about," Valleau posted on social media. "I'm also thrilled to share this outcome with such excellent ladies and look forward to working with Monique, Shannon and the rest of the D91 school board."