District 202 Board discussions on goals reflect district’s “abnormal” support for social justice


Claire Gardner/The Daily Northwestern

District equity analyst Lauren Hamilton and director of equity Ganae McAlpin present at Monday night’s District 202 board meeting.

Claire Gardner, Reporter

One speaker told the Evanston Township High School District 202 Board of Education members they were “abnormal,” during Monday night’s meeting. It was a compliment.

The characterization came from district equity analyst Lauren Hamilton, who presented with director of equity Ganae McAlpin on ETHS’s Social Consciousness Programming. And the discussions of equity didn’t stop with Hamilton and McAlpin’s presentation. 

The board spent more than half of its monthly meeting revising the four district goals to reflect its current values. Illinois requires the adoption of a set of goals to “guide resource allocation and identify areas of focus in the district’s planning efforts,” according to the board’s website.

Board president Pat Savage-Williams said when it comes to social consciousness efforts, ETHS is a role model. 

“We know that not just Evanston but communities across this country are watching what we do,” Savage-Williams said. “So there’s quite a lot of pressure.”

Equity, student-wellbeing, fiscal accountability, and community engagement are the themes that the four goals, last revised in 2016, expand on. Much of what the board worked to do in its edits on Monday was to take the onus off of lower-achieving students to fix their performance and instead take institutional responsibility for inequity. 

A district-wide commitment to equity programming has meant tangible effects in classrooms. Hamilton reported the training of over 135 staff on restorative practices, the creation of queer student affinity lunch spaces and launch of a mentorship program for Black female students. 

Hamilton said across five social consciousness events this year, including the Black Student Summit, keynote speakers often spent extra time connecting with students. 

“(Their involvement speaks to) how abnormal it is to have something like a student summit at a school, and for it to be fully supported through resources and time by a board and by a superintendent,” Hamilton said.

Still, Hamilton noted that the majority of work of creating these events has been done by Black and brown women on staff putting in extra, unpaid hours. 

District 202’s first goal, which focuses on equity, acknowledges structural racism as crucial to student outcomes. The board changed the language on Monday so that the first sentence reads, “As an anti-racist institution” rather than starting off with the equity actions the board will take.

The board deliberated the value in listing out other demographic markers like income, gender and disability status. Some members worried that a list would cause readers to lose sight of race as the current largest predictor of academic outcomes, per a finding from the ETHS 2020-21 “Year in Review.” 

It was nearly an hour before the room reached unanimous satisfaction, at least temporarily, on a revised draft of the first goal. Board members proceeded with a round of briefer edits on the three remaining goals. All four finalized 2023 goals have yet to be released.

Some board members raised concerns that when publishing a list of demographic markers, it could always be considered incomplete.  The list as it stood was missing religion and neighborhood, for instance. The board settled on the fact that their choices now will not always reflect the contemporary landscape. 

“(This document) is supposed to be fluid. It is supposed to move with the current vision,” Parsons said.

Parsons was a supporter of keeping language that emphasized a student-centered environment.  

She said that an environment with this focus shifts what voices are allowed in future decision making. 

“People need to read this and know and see themselves in it,” Parsons said. “Transparency is a priority.”

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