District 65 introduces racial and educational equity statement, appoints equity consultant

Jerry Lee, Summer Managing Editor

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education specified implementations to move forward with the racial and educational equity initiative, first introduced in December, at a board meeting Monday evening.

During the meeting, superintendent Paul Goren presented the District 65 Racial and Educational Equity Statement. According to the statement, the district will make a series of commitments to address practices and barriers within its system that “perpetuate opportunity and achievement gaps.”

In addition, Goren described work that has already been done with regard to the initiative including implementing focus groups and community caucuses, and engaging an “equity consultant.”

“The statement, as I see it, really serves as a guidepost for the district work,” Goren said.

Equity consultant Corrie Wallace said she was approached by Goren especially because of her experiences with multicultural educational systems. Wallace, who was appointed by the Niles Township High School District 219 as the first director of equity and English Language Learners for Niles North and West high schools in 2013, said her specific plan of action includes conducting equity audits at 18 school visits for approximately nine months.

“This is deeply important to me because I’m from the community,” Wallace, an Evanston resident, told The Daily. “There’s a very strong history of institutional racism within this community that I think we addressed through a color-blind approach in the past, and this is a move towards a more color-conscious approach.”

Goren said the district received generally positive and supportive comments from the rest of the community regarding the push for equity. He said community members have voiced their interests in being involved in the district’s work and having other classifications besides race in the equity push.

The board presented a revised statement at the meeting to address the latter issue and elevate “the primacy of racial equity while also including language acknowledging the importance of equity for other protected classes,” according to a memorandum Goren submitted.

However, some community members continued to express their concerns about the initiative’s progress, such as Roger Williams, who spoke at the district’s policy committee meeting in April as well before the bulk of the meeting took place.

Williams, a member of the Evanston-based Organization for Positive Action and Leadership’s board of directors, said during Monday’s meeting the audit lacked “a sense of urgency” by only auditing 18 schools over nine months. Williams suggested to the board that the district cut the time by half.

“Black and brown children will continue to be denied a quality education while District 65 casually deals with the issue,” Williams said. “This problem has been going on for years. This is not the time to dig our heels in and just go in slow motion.”

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