By Theresa Kelly Gegen
We’re all in the same boat, but we’re not all in the same storm. Or, as some prefer, we’re all in the same storm, but not in the same boat.
Depending on your perspective, it’s been but a minute or a long six months since I first shared that saying. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the hopes and plans of the Illinois education community, and work continues to find a new normal, I hope everyone in the Illinois public education community can give – and receive – the grace they need to lead, guide, and provide through the storm.
Both the adage and the need for grace are just as apt when talking about educational equity, which is the theme of this issue of the Illinois School Board Journal. There are as many takes on equity as there are public school children in Illinois – it’s a topic that challenges everyone differently, some more than others. It ought to be challenging every one of us. Just as we experience a multitude of storms, there is no one-size-fits-all equity journey. This Journal brings several different voices and shares several perspectives on educational equity, presented here in hopes that one sparks an idea that helps you.
Whether you are already on an equity journey with your school district, just beginning, working with someone who needs convincing, or need convincing yourself, the best place to start is “Ten ways school boards can champion racial equity,” which we revisit starting on page 10. This piece was first authored in 2018 by Pat Savage-Williams, a member of the Evanston THSD 202 Board of Education and special education coordinator at New Trier THSD 203. In this most hectic of times for educators, Savage-Williams was kind enough to update the article and expand the accompanying resources for 2020.
Other contributors share their commentaries on educational equity in this issue of the Journal. In “What’s on the Table? Illinois Has a Teacher Diversity Shortage, Too,” teachers share the moments of connection with students that demonstrate the need for students to see themselves in their teachers, and that “the teacher diversity shortage is as severe and important as the overall teacher shortage.” Read more on page 16.
Educator and trainer Elizabeth Kleinrock, in “Anti-Racist Work in Schools: Are You in it for the Long Haul?” notes “there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to this work … urgency cannot be prioritized over relationships or centering the voices and opinions of marginalized community members.” Find this piece, first featured in “Teaching Tolerance,” starting on page 25.
Mark Hansen, in a commentary “Swing Away: Why Equity Matters for All Students, Schools, and Communities,” on page 27, says “The role of school leaders is to be intentional and to compel the same in others so that unfairness is not normalized — so that principles are not bent to serve the interests of one individual or group over another.”
The Illinois Association of School Boards is also partaking in the equity journey.
The Association’s ongoing but newly-named Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee is working on internal and external efforts to make educational equity a precept, a matter of course in IASB’s work. Early this year the Association announced an in-district workshop, Equity: An Educational Imperative, to help districts begin the journey. The workshop helps school board members understand their central role in creating a vision for Educational Equity in the district. A school board with a commitment to equity uses an equity lens to make policy decisions that affect the educational environment. Board members are responsible for moving equity from theory to practice, and must dismantle policies and practices that support inequities
Educational Equity was expected to be a topic of interest and multiple offerings at the 2020 Joint Annual Conference. As readers may know by now, Conference has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the conversations and equity journeys continue, with this issue of the Journal and beyond.
Theresa Kelly Gegen is Editor of the Illinois School Board Journal.