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Demonstrators outside City Hall in March 2021 want an elected school board in Chicago.

Members of the Grassroots Education Movement, which is composed of parents of Chicago Public Schools students and community leaders, demand Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to support the establishment of an Elected Representative School Board outside City Hall in the Loop in March 2021.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

47 candidates file for Chicago school board elections

The window for hopefuls to submit their minimum 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot closed Monday afternoon with more than two dozen final-day submissions wrapping up the week-long process that kicked off the elections.

Chicago’s first-ever school board elections will feature 47 candidates vying for 10 seats, a number surpassing most expectations and including parents, former teachers and principals, nonprofit workers and a rapper.

The window for hopefuls to submit their minimum 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot closed Monday afternoon with more than two dozen final-day submissions wrapping up the week-long process that kicked off the elections.

Carmen Gioiosa beat the clock to file her paperwork in District 4 along the north lakefront, where six people are battling it out. The former high school Italian teacher and Chicago Public Schools central office administrator said she was still collecting signatures Monday morning.

“The angst and the sleepless nights; you just want a chance to be on the ballot so that they can decide whether we are the right candidate,” Gioiosa said.

She had the help of her two kids, ages 7 and 13, who memorized her pitch to voters and would help her fill in the blanks if she forgot any lines. Now she’s hoping to get started with campaigning and hearing more of parents’ top concerns.

“I want people to start meeting us because our city needs us, our schools need us and so do our teachers,” Gioiosa said. “We need to get some work done together.”

Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Max Bever said 26 candidates filed their signatures on the final day, rounding out what has turned out to be a robust set of races. Most onlookers had predicted just shy of 40 hopefuls would file signatures.

While no new names will be getting on the ballot from this point forward, not all those who filed in the past week are guaranteed to make it. That’s because there will likely be challenges to the validity and number of some candidates’ signatures, a notorious hallmark of Chicago municipal elections.

The Chicago Board of Elections will meet in July to discuss any challenges, and the ballot will be set by no later than Aug. 29.

Then in November, voters will only pick between the candidates in their geographic district.

But not everyone will have the same number of options to choose from.

District 10 is expected to be the most hotly contested, with seven candidates.

James Walton, a longtime Chicago Public Schools administrator, filed just before the 5 p.m. deadline Monday to run in District 10. He was the last candidate to get on the ballot in any district.

“When it comes to what schools need, I’ve been on the frontline for that,” said Walton, a former principal at Manley Career Academy High School in Lawndale on the West Side. “So I just want to make sure I’m a voice for what the kids need to have to be successful as they go through their school careers.

“I feel like I have some gas still left in the tank,” he said. “I’m excited about the chance to really impact kids from that level all the way into the classroom.”

District 8, spanning areas of the Southwest Side, had no candidates heading into Monday. But it’ll now be contested by three people, pending petition challenges.

Most of the remaining districts have between three and six candidates each.

Raquel Don, who filed Monday afternoon in District 7, said the process for getting on the ballot was “very intimidating for a regular person like myself,” particularly with the size of her district and the number of signatures needed, which some have criticized for setting a higher threshold than some congressional races.

Don, a mother of three kids, has served on an elementary local school council and now is a parent representative on the Jones College Prep LSC.

“Since this is the first time this election is happening, first of all educating people [was important],” she said. “Making them aware so that they can care enough to get involved.”

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