School Board Caucus’ slate readies for April election

Endorsed candidates face independent hopefuls in upcoming board election


Top 3 New Trier

Jean Hahn (left), Courtney McDonough (center), and Sally Pofcher (right) are slated by the Caucus to run in the April 4 school board election

Winnetka resident Courtney McDonough has helped children develop and thrive as an educator for the past 25 years. Now she wants to take those experiences and use them to move New Trier forward as a member of the Board of Education.

“I am excited to potentially have the opportunity to dedicate this skill set and my professional experience to New Trier,” said McDonough.

The fact that we continue to put forth candidates that are so high- quality just reflects the strength of the caucus. I do believe merely receiving our endorsement goes a very long way for getting our slate elected.

— David Eisenberg

On April 4, voters will head to the polls in the 2023 municipal elections, with early voting starting on March 20. Of six candidates, three will be elected.

McDonough is running on a slate with incumbent Jean Hahn and newcomer Sally Pofcher. They were endorsed by the New Trier School Board Caucus, a non-partisan group of forty-five citizens who interview, vet, and endorse candidates for the school board.

Pofcher, a Wilmette resident, has played a major role in the business world, serving as CEO of Paper Source and Hanna Anderson, two national companies. In her spare time, she has volunteered with the New Trier Business Department by speaking at Career Day and judging “Pitch Night.” She has also served as chair of the New Trier Parent Association.

“Having served on a variety of for-profit and non–profit boards, I’m fairly familiar with thoughtful, collaborative governance between board members,” said Pofcher.

Hahn, a Glencoe resident, is an immigration staff attorney at the North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic. She previously served two terms on the Glencoe School Board and has served on the New Trier School Board since 2019, where she is board vice president.

“I am seeking reelection to the New Trier Board of Education because I hope to have the opportunity to continue supporting our community’s most valued asset – New Trier High School,” said Hahn.

Each caucus-endorsed candidate has “a strong commitment to serve the New Trier community and help address its most pressing needs,”according to McDonough.

According to their campaign website, Top 3 New Trier, they were not aware of each before they were slated by the caucus.

The caucus slated them after a seven-week search last year, which involved interviews with six applicants. The caucus looked for applicants who were prepared. Applicants should have reviewed board meetings or board minutes, and spoken with the administration.

Junior Edyssa Elia, a caucus member, said that the caucus also looked for applicants that were “well-balanced.”

“If there are people running that are just really focused on one issue, nothing is going to be done on the Board [of Education]. You have to be able to understand different issues, and be able to fix them without only thinking about [one issue],” said Elia. It is also important that caucus members keep an open mind when it comes to interviewing applicants, according to Caucus Chair David Eisenberg.

“You want [caucus members] to listen to each and every candidate, and understand where they’re coming from, what their skills are, in order to determine which of the candidates that put themselves out there is gonna be the best candidate,” said Eisenberg.

Caucuses have existed on the North Shore since the early 1900s when Winnetka created its caucus in 1917. And since then, each feeder school across New Trier Township has created its own caucus, with the exception of the Wilmette Caucus, which ceased operations in 1969.

The New Trier School Board Caucus was established in 1954 by the League of Women Voters and the New Trier Citizens League, who endorse candidates for the Township Board of Trustees. And, over the decades, the caucus has come to be respected by the community, said Eisenberg.

“The fact that we continue to put forth candidates that are so high- quality just reflects the strength of the caucus. I do believe merely receiving our endorsement goes a very long way for getting our slate elected,” said Eisenberg.

However, that is not always the case.

“Historically, the caucus- endorsed slate does not always get elected in full. There are times when, perhaps, one non-endorsed candidate will get elected,” said Eisenberg.

The last time an independent candidate won a seat on the school board was in 2011. And since then, the caucus slate has been challenged twice, in 2021 and 2023.

For this upcoming election, independent candidates Bernadine Hossfeld, of Wilmette, Blanca Zaragoza-Kaufman, of Glencoe, and Jennifer Yeo, of Glencoe, are running for the New Trier Board of Education.

This month, the caucus-endorsed candidates have been around the community, connecting with people through in-person and virtual events.

“We are excited to hear more about community members’ interests and concerns,” said McDonough.