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Championing Equity in District 65

April 17, 2018

 

Dear District 65 Community,


In District 65, our mission is to prepare each student to achieve academically, grow personally, and contribute positively to a global society. Yet, for decades we have fallen short of achieving our goals for every child even with the implementation of curricular best practices and focused interventions. Despite our best efforts, academic outcomes of our students of color remain several grade levels behind their White peers. For longtime Evanstonians, District 65 educators, and especially for members of our Black and Latinx communities, this is a familiar story.


Nearly three years ago, we renewed our focus on racial and educational equity with a strong, unwavering commitment from our school board and administration. I believe that this work is critical for the well-being and academic success of our Black and Latinx students and to prepare our White students for success in a multicultural world that is far from race neutral.


In an effort to close the racial opportunity gap, our approach is multi-faceted and goes far beyond the classroom. We have taken an equity lens to our strategic priority areas to make systemic change across all levels of our organization - ranging from curricular practices, to employee hiring, to examining school climate - acknowledging that programmatic fixes and one-off solutions have not and will not make a sustained difference.


Changing the practices and policies of a system takes time, yet must be faced with urgency. Shifting attitudes and beliefs is not easy. We must equip our staff with the knowledge and skills to talk about race in productive and meaningful ways. We do this by offering a range of professional learning opportunities, mostly in whole group settings and occasionally through self-identified affinity groups. This technique has been used for staff and family groups in District 65 for several years and is commonly used throughout the Evanston community, across public education, and in the corporate world.


We recognize that the idea of separating by racial identity feels uncomfortable for some. Staff can opt out of school-based affinity groups and the district groups are voluntary. Our aim is to create as many opportunities for reflection and conversation as possible so that adults are equipped to support students of all racial identities and meet each and every one of them where they are.


As a White superintendent, I strongly support our equity champions who are living and breathing this work day in and day out. I support the efforts being undertaken by our staff members who hold multiple social identities to address race, racism, and bias in an open and honest manner. While we are not the first to do this work, we are excited to be at the forefront of these efforts and to see other districts embark on this work as part of the State of Illinois required training on implicit bias in schools.


Our agenda will continue to promote racial and educational equity in our schools and we refuse to shy away from difficult conversations. Only by naming and learning about race, can we create a socially just and welcoming environment where children of color and white children have opportunities to fulfill their true potential.


Paul Goren

Superintendent of Schools

Evanston/Skokie School District 65