District 65 has hired Corrie Wallace, Director of Equity and of the ELL [English-Language Learners] Parent Center for Niles Township schools, to conduct an equity audit to look at practices, policies and procedures within the District.

In a June 1 memo to Superintendent Dr. Paul Goren, Ms. Wallace wrote that the audit would involve 18 school visits and that it would “take about 9 months to assess needs through quantitative and qualitative data.”

Ms. Wallace said she would talk with the “key stakeholders who are responsible for educating all of our children: parents, staff, community members and the students themselves.” There will also be professional development over the next 12 months, she said, “to build common shared experiences/language which will provide the foundation for continued systemic transformation and fostering a more culturally relevant curriculum.”

Ms. Wallace said she will conduct the audit in two phases, and it will be aligned with the District’s strategic plan “to complement the whole child culture/climate initiative.”

The first phase will involve establishing the District 65 Equity Leadership Team, agreeing on definitions, developing focus-group questions, visiting schools and collecting data, and identifying themes.

In phase 2, the District 65 Equity Leadership Team will look at the findings, present a “diagnostic analysis of responses” to the Board, and establish committees to implement the framework for more equitable practices and outcomes.

At the June 13 Board meeting, Ms. Wallace said, “I think a lot of the pieces are currently in place, but I do look forward to digging in and to doing the work with all of you and being reflective, seeing how our personal informs the professional work that we do. We’re all part of the village that is responsible for raising our kids – and it’s an important job.”

Board Discussion

At the request of Board President Candance Chow, Ms. Wallace elaborated on the audit. She said the Equity Leadership Team will get input from school representatives, and that information will help formulate the overall questions to be asked and answered. Feedback from students, staff and parents will be gathered.

“At the end of all 18 school visits, there will be a response from each of the schools in terms of findings and next steps. The Equity Leadership Team is really crucial in helping to develop questions and making sure it reflects the community and the schools.”

“Beyond the discipline policy, what other policies will you look at?” asked Board member Tracy Quattrocki.

“Redistricting, busing, lunchroom, instruction – what’s going on in the classrooms as well,” said Ms. Wallace. She added she and the Equity Leadership Team would also look at test scores and other data school-by-school. “This is going to be complementary to the strategic plan and school climate work,” she said.

Board member Jennifer Phillips referred to a previous suggestion by Board member Omar Brown, that the Board and administrators take a look at successful African American and Latino students and ask them about their success.

Dr. Goren suggested talking with Steve Newman, a teacher at Evanston Township High School who founded the Evanston Scholars program.

Referring to a request to collapse the nine-month timeline, Mr. Brown said, “Can you walk us through why it’s nine months?”

Ms. Wallace said once the school year starts, the Equity Leadership Team will be meeting every month throughout the school year. School visits will be scheduled according to the availability of the principals. She said she would provide regular updates and would return to the Board in January or February with some more detailed information.

“We’ve made a commitment to the community to make an equity policy but it seems that some work is going to be dependent on the audit,” said Board member Suni Kartha.

“I think the outcome of the audit will inform the policy,” said Ms. Chow,

“The equity statement is so fluid – do we anticipate that we’re going to be altering it as a result of the audit?” asked Board member Claudia Garrison.

Dr. Goren said that was the case but added, “The statement is not a policy. We have to do a deep dive into our work.”

Ms. Chow said the Board should adopt the statement “to prove our commitment.”

“A statement of what our intent is and what our goal is,” added Ms. Garrison.

It is expected that the Board will adopt the statement at its August meeting.