I would bet that most, if not all, white families who live in Evanston will say “we moved to Evanston for the diversity.” These families also argue that they embrace the diversity reflected in Evanston’s two public school districts over any other North Shore District. More than ever, now is the time to match the rhetoric of embracing diversity with action and support. District 65 has been served a lawsuit challenging the equity agenda that many of us in the community and the schools have helped build. We must all throw our weight behind these efforts, the leadership of the district, and its teaching and support staff in their work to serve all children and especially children of color who have been historically underserved in our “diverse community.”
I have lived in Evanston for 23 years. Our three children attended and graduated from Oakton Elementary School, Chute Middle School and ETHS. My wife is a graduate of Nichols and ETHS. And I had the honor and privilege of serving as District 65 superintendent from 2014 to 2019. During this time, my team and I commissioned an equity audit of every building, created an equity statement and policy, moved our curriculum to embrace culturally relevant practices, and after recognizing that a disproportionate percentage of students of color were being disciplined and suspended, shifted classroom and school discipline to more restorative practices. We also required all District 65 employees to participate in racial identity training through the Beyond Diversity and SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) programs. This training included participating in affinity groups by race, something I supported, actively participated in, and would do again without hesitation. The affinity groups helped those of us who are white do the work to understand and address our role in the racial issues facing children in our schools rather than depending on our colleagues of color to soothe our consciences.
I unequivocally support Dr. Horton and his leadership team in their efforts to take these initial equity commitments to the next level – to address the disparate outcomes in our schools between students of color and white students. The superintendent is doing an outstanding job to stand tall for all students and especially Black, Latinx and mixed-race students. As a community, we need our education leaders to be focused on making a difference in the lives of students, and not spending their time on frivolous lawsuits solely intended to influence headlines. The headlines from Evanston must be that we as a community support and value diversity in our schools and are fully committed to doing the difficult but courageous work necessary to address race and institutional racism. If we are going to continue to celebrate living in a diverse community, then we must actively support the important work of Dr. Horton and his leadership team as they continue the district’s commitment to equity.
— Paul Goren
Director, Center for Educational Efficacy, Excellence, and Equity
Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy, former Superintendent of Schools, Evanston/Skokie District 65