At the March 17 District 202 School Board meeting, Nicole Parker, E-BAN faculty facilitator, gave an update on the Evanston Black Advocacy Network, a parent-engagement group created by the school in 2012. E-BAN holds evening meetings, meals provided, on the second Tuesday of each month. About 30% of the students at Evanston Township High School have identified themselves as black or African American, she said.
Ms. Parker said information gathered at early meetings suggested that many parents of Evanston Township High School – several of whom had attended ETHS – “had not enjoyed positive experiences at ETHS, nor did they hold teachers and the school in high regard. In fact, many of the parents, some of whom were graduates of ETHS, expressed feeling alienated and unwelcomed by the school.”
E-BAN, Ms. Parker said, “tries to break down those barriers and promote a welcoming space.”
The goals of E-BAN are to “improve black students’ achievement, increase parental participation in E-BAN, empower parents so they can help their students, and raise awareness about school information and policies,” Ms. Parker said.
“We build communication between ETHS and the black community, which will improve student achievement,” Ms. Parker said. “Research shows that achievement improves with improved communication,” she added.
Ms. Parker also said E-BAN provides a place where parents can feel safe. She offered some recommendations, and Board members assured her that she could proceed with them without any Board action: developing a survey for parents or guardians of black students, providing meals for evening meetings, hosting a black student achievement summit and collecting school supplies to be distributed at the annual CommUNITY picnic.
Assistant Superintendent Marcus Campbell said that in both the Latino Advisory Council and E-BAN, “a lot of parents want to talk about race … [something] that they may not be comfortable talking about in other forums. … The focus is trying to increase participation. … We respond to things that come up. … This year parents said, ‘We need to know more about resources.’”
Scott Rochelle said, “I absolutely love this. I love it because it provides a safe space. That is key – providing information in a space where parents are comfortable.”
Pat Savage-Williams said, “The report was great. It explains why E-BAN is so important to ETHS.”
Doug Holt said the reference to the fact that some parents said they did not have a positive experience at ETHS “reminds me of what we heard from the Latino Advocacy Committee. I think it’s important to do what you did – be candid about it.”
Ms. Savage-Williams asked whether Ms. Parker sees a continuing need for E-BAN.
“Absolutely,” Ms. Parker said. “As long as we have new families coming into the high school, there will be a need.” She added that she expects E-BAN parents to “branch out” to other school committees and volunteer activities.