In District 65, our mission is to prepare each student to achieve academically, grow personally, and contribute positively to a global society. 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. In an effort to enhance and expand our capacity to discuss race in meaningful ways, we offer 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.
As a White superintendent, I strongly support our equity champions and the efforts being undertaken by those 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 will not 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.
Superintendent of Schools
Evanston/Skokie School District 65