1. The three most important equity issues our board must tackle are:
A. Closing the Opportunity Achievement Gap between student populations, specifically African American, Hispanic, and lower economic students compared with the general population. It is vital that we begin to utilize analytics to understand where we are as a district, have a strategic plan incorporating metrics that helps set goals on where we would like to move towards within a specified timeframe. I believe small steps are acceptable, as long as we move in a positive direction closing the gap. Shrinking the opportunity gap will elevate our overall district achievement success.
B. Strengthen our district’s high caliber workforce, by embracing increased diverse staffing and recruiting efforts, positively enhancing the learning environment for all students.
C. And finally, our most immediate equity issue will be to provide resources for those student’s who have struggled as a result of the pandemic. Families have weathered COVID’s academic challenges in vastly different ways. It will be vital to help those who have not been able to take advantage of outside educational resources or who have not readily had accessible assistance at home and have therefore languished. We must do all we can to shore up their skills, their confidence, and their motivation to move forward.
2. The 3 steps I will take to advance equity in District 204 are:
A. I will continue to move the work forward we have begun with the inclusion of our Equity Statement for the district. I co-chaired the process for development of our statement and have already been working with Superintendent Talley, our Executive Director of Educational Equity, Jen Rowe, and President Raczak to ensure inclusion of all district stakeholders as we determine the appropriate equity initiative for our district.
B. I will continue to be a champion at the Illinois Association of School Boards for equity, which ultimately impacts not only our district but districts throughout the state. I authored the belief statement that our district presented in 2020 at the state level. It was approved and accepted at the state school board delegation in November and is the only Equity Belief Statement in the IASB Resolution manual.
C. I believe the early years are critical for educational growth. I will be a champion across all populations to ensure families are aware the important role that pre-school plays in children’s early educational attainment. We must encourage those families that are not aware of pre-school’s value to enroll so their children can receive foundational skills and knowledge for their future success.
- Parental Advocacy groups such as PDAC and other groups at our schools are vital to enhance awareness for the community regarding equity across a variety of lenses. Exposure to national champions regarding equity can really only take place through organizations that are broadly focused and inclusive of the entire district. Awareness and exposure are the 2 main areas that I see advocacy groups bringing to IPSD. When you have the commitment level that our parent leaders have, outside personnel are willing to give of their time to help make our community better. Working together creates cohesiveness and inclusivity and the opportunity to study, learn and discuss as an entire community is priceless. PDAC and additional parental groups are modeling for our students just how important it is to be willing to look outside of yourself and appreciate others for who they are.
- Growing up as an African American female in this country has most influenced my feelings regarding equity. I often was 1 of maybe 2 students in my classes growing up all of my life, the majority of my friends didn’t look like me. I attended college at a predominantly white institution (PWI), grad school the same and of course corporate America, not much difference. But, as a mother, advocating for my girls, I learned the importance of helping others to know I wish the same for my daughters as every other parent does. An excellent education, opportunities to flourish socially and the ability to achieve their dreams. I now find myself being encouraged and positively influenced by our young people. People from a range of cultures, socio-economic backgrounds want to discuss issues that bother them, that they don’t see as equitable and I am very encouraged by these “Difficult Conversations” that are taking place throughout our country.
- Redistricting is an exceedingly difficult process for students and families. It is something I was faced with in 2017-2018, not long after I began by term. First and foremost, ensuring that our building populations are balanced is critical. We must provide student-teacher ratios that are not dramatically off-balance from one school to the next. Resource allocation is critical, whether it is student-teacher…library media resources….social worker/counselor/nurse numbers. Listening to parents and students is key. Understanding demographer studies that are provided will be important. Ultimately, using all information available and then making the best decision for our students and staff is what I must do. The conversations and decisions are never easy but ensuring that equitable educational resources have the best chance to be provided to each and every student will guide my process.
- English Language Learner students, as well as students with special needs, must have access to the resources they need to thrive, just as all other students should have. One of the most important steps that can be created for them, is an extremely welcoming and safe school and classroom environment. Teacher and parent conversations at the beginning of the student’s tenure should occur, so everyone is on the same page. We are fortunate in our district because we have a strong ELL and strong Special Needs programs but making sure we as a board are supportive of both areas by resource provision, classroom adjustments and even school adjustments if necessary. Again, the board is not involved in day-to-day management, but we show our support by approval of necessary equipment and resources that may be outside of the norm for other students, but necessary for those with special requirements. Ensuring that we approve hiring of the best teachers in those specific areas in addition to resource provision are the best steps the board can take to support our special learners. Encouraging initiatives in our schools can involve cultural events, acceptance of diversity and inclusion and there are even presenters who travel sharing special needs messages. Specific events or programs implemented are the staff’s choice, but certainly Board support by attendance can be shown.
- Equity as part of our curriculum can take part in so many ways. For ELL learners, inclusion of pictures and graphics is important as they are learning the English language. From a social studies perspective, ensuring we expand the history of the U.S. to include all populations and the way they contributed to the growth of America is important. Some of it is easy to share and some is not, but all aspects should be discussed in ways that are appropriate for each grade level. The good, the bad and they ugly must be shared. And for our English classes, inclusion of authors across various cultures, especially of students represented in our schools will enhance equity and I’m certain the vitality of classroom discussions. We must include more staff of color at the table as the decisions regarding our curriculum take place.
- The Achievement Gap or Opportunity Gap as is more and more commonly referred to, discusses the ways in which race, socio-economic status, ethnicity, and geographic locations contribute to the academic attainment of students. It is a national challenge and even in a high achieving district such as IPSD 204, we see it as every present challenge. As I stated above, I believe it is crucial for us to take the information we receive from the state each year, broken down by school, race and economic status and put specific goals and objectives in place to address and move the needle in regard to the gap in our district. Again, it’s not something that will change overnight, and metrics, goals and objectives should be realistic. But if we don’t set a goal, how can we ever expect to have a positive impact.
- I am the best equity candidate because I have been committed to making a difference in our district for a number of years regarding equity. I was a charter member of the PAGES parents’ program at WVHS, working with Mr. Stipp to bring parents together to begin talking specifically abut educational and social attainment of African American students at WVHS. I already alluded to the work we as a board are committed to achieving regarding Equity, and while our Equity Statement is a small step, it is an important one, and I am honored to have co-chaired the process. My commitment is evident, as I continue to work with the administration on plans to begin district-wide involvement in the equity process, most likely in the ’21-’22 school year. And finally, I have also shared my commitment to see educational equity be recognized as important at the state level with our district’s submission of the Equity Belief Statement that is part of the IASB resolution manual.