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At the Jan. 22 School Board meeting, Superintendent Paul Goren summarized past efforts to improve Black student achievement and  some of the next steps that he plans to take, including creating two new positions: an Executive Director for Black Student Success and an Equity Instructional Coach.

Referring to the 2017 District 65 Achievement Report that was presented to the Board on Jan. 16 (see link below), Dr. Goren said, “We are reminded that removing barriers and accelerating Black student achievement is both a longstanding and urgent priority. We see some signs of progress in early grades literacy, but this is not sufficient. We must make changes to meet the needs of Black students and their families.  We will do so by disrupting institutional racism in policy and practice and by modifying our curriculum so that it is rigorous, engaging, and culturally relevant.” 

In the past several years, Dr. Goren said, the District has engaged in equity work to address the needs of underserved and historically marginalized families and children who attend its schools. “We have embarked on an aggressive training effort on racial identity and bias, detracked our mathematics programming, shifted our hiring processes to include an intentional focus on equity, expanded our second language programming to meet growing needs, changed our suspension and disciplinary approaches, and focused with our educators on shifting school climate and culture.”

To build on these existing efforts to promote equity, Dr. Goren said he will make “improving and accelerating Black student achievement a primary goal for District 65.” Accountability for achieving this goal will rest with the Superintendent, he said. In addition, he said, the work to accelerate the achievement of Black students is the responsibility of Cabinet members and their departments, principals, and educators throughout the District.

“All of this work,” Dr. Goren said, “is supported by our equity agenda and efforts underway to develop staff knowledge and skill in identifying and disrupting racism.

“To fully weave this work into District and school-level routines, we need to intentionally focus on classroom instruction (which includes culturally relevant approaches to Black student achievement), the leadership role played by our principals, and our efforts on family and community engagement.” 

To strengthen the District’s efforts, Dr. Goren said he will create a new position, Executive Director for Black Student Success, who will serve as the champion and coordinator of the District’s efforts on Black student achievement and the overall achievement of students of color in the District. The person who holds this positon will report to the Assistant Superintendent of Schools.

Dr. Goren said he will also create an Equity Instructional Coach position to support this new leader. “I envision that this person will initially work in two to three schools with our educators to provide focused learning opportunities that can ultimately be used Districtwide.”

Dr. Goren said he will work to make the addition of these two new positions as “cost-neutral” as possible.

In the public comment section of the Jan. 22 meeting, a dozen members of the community expressed dissatisfaction with progress being made to improve Black students’ achievement, but they all supported appointing a person to serve as Executive Director for Black Student Success.

School Board members also supported creating the new position. Board President Suni Kartha said, “This is real substantive change” to dismantle structural racism. Rebeca Mendoza said, “This is a moment for the community to celebrate.” Anya Tanyavutti said, “This is a moment that is in many ways monumental . … This is an opportunity for us to celebrate together.” Sergio Hernandez thanked Dr. Goren for listening to the community.