Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

Twenty-two staff members and three Board Members from School District 202 attended this year’s National Summit for Courageous Conversations held Sept. 24-28 in Austin, Texas. Those who attended came home with a renewed commitment to equity work at ETHS.

The annual conference, organized by the Pacific Educational Group (PEG), brings together leaders in the field of racial equity from around the globe together with educators and community leaders “to engage in a deepened conversation about systemic racism and its impact on opportunity and achievement in schools, colleges, business, government and community” according to the group’s website.

This year’s theme, “Reflections of Our Better Selves” tied together presentations and breakout sessions which explored issues of race and diversity. Keynote speakers included Chris Crass, a leading anti-racist organizer, author and educator; Gilda Ochoa, professor of sociology and Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies and author; Jasiri X, politically and socially conscious hip hop artist; and Glenn Singleton, president and founder of PEG.

Three ETHS staff members discussed their experiences at the Oct.10 District 202 School Board Meeting. Each talked about how the conference helped them challenge their own beliefs on race and reflect on how they could better advocate for and relate to students in their jobs at the high school. The teachers spoke of how the conference left them “empowered,” “inspired,” and “affirmed”.

Board President Pat Savage-Williams, together with Board Member Mark Metz, led a special session at the conference designed specifically for school board members. They spoke about the work ETHS is doing on equity, which stems from the Board’s Equity Statement.

Board Member Ann Sills also attended the conference. She told the Board about the My Brother’s Keeper workshop she attended and how “humbling” it was. 

Mr. Metz, who went to the conference for the fourth year in a row, said that each year he gets “a few meters more down the road” in his personal journey on race. He said he gained understanding of how important it is for equity work to be led “from the top down” as it is at ETHS so that it “permeates” to all involved. When that is not the case, he said, equity work “stops being a priority”.

Honor Allen, Student Representative, told the Board that students are “empowered by the fact” that teachers and Board members attend this conference and engage in “deep thinking” around race. “It’s so important,” she said, “and it’s noticed in all classes.”