Improving racial equity a top goal in OPRF strategic plan

Final approval expected in coming weeks

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Developing a racial consciousness among all school staff is among the goals outlined in Oak Park and River Forest High School's ambitious strategic plan.

The plan is still in draft form, but the District 200 Board of Education, which governs OPRF, is expected to approve a final plan in the next few weeks. The plan lays out goals the school hopes to achieve over the next five years. The board and administration have been dissecting the draft since its release in June.

Five goals are outlined in the plan, and each of the goals includes several specific initiatives or "action steps" the school looks to achieve. The plan addresses such issues as school finances and facilities and overall academics.

But the focus on equity is of note, given the school's long attention to the closing the achievement gap, as well as addressing racial disparities in the discipline system.

Before the school embarked on its strategic plan, Supt. Steven Isoye, who's in his third year at OPRF, has looked to move racial equity even more into the foreground. The strategic planning process was also spearheaded by Isoye.

The equity goal includes several initiatives, including "developing racial consciousness in all personnel hired" and creating a school environment where "all students experience a sense of belonging."

At a recent school board meeting, Isoye explained detailed some of the work the school has done over the years on the equity issue, as well as what work lies ahead.

And clearing up some of the misconceptions about how race and ethnicity is defined, Isoye says, is part of that work.

"To help with this work, there are some definitions that we work with our faculty and staff; there's some confusion with nationality, ethnicity and race," he told the D200 board.

"Nationality is really location of citizenship or birthplace; what your passport or birth certificate says. Ethnicity is your culture, where your values and beliefs and daily practices come from. That's different than race," Isoye said. "Race is color, the racial category that you're perceived to be. And that's why when we talk about race we talk we talk about black students and white students."

Isoye also recalled having to fill out forms as a child, with "oriental" as one of the choices.

"That threw me for a loop, because it was white, black and oriental — OK. Then when oriental was changed to 'Asian' I wondered, 'Where did my category go?' So the race piece, for me, helps me understand," he said.


Reader Comments

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Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 1st, 2013 5:58 PM

Is it fair that you choose a tag that sounds similiar to name of the frequent Wednesday Journal columinst, Stan West? It's not facebook verified so I guess this was a deliberate but weak attempt at satire. Turned out to be just a big fail. Mr. West offered many thoughtful insights and I enjoyed reading his columns. The nonsense you posted was meanspirited. Shameful.

Stan East  

Posted: August 1st, 2013 5:10 PM

Why in this town is everyone so concerned with racial equality. Certain people within every race will always be equal but until black fix their family, get off the drugs, black men stop being such thugs, they stay off the booze and drugs, they stop killing each other and they realize that if they would just get a job and education everything would be fine. I think productive black people will always be welcome but to me it seems they try and blame everything on race which is becomming a joke

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 3:52 PM

I love for someone to seriously define exactly what they mean by racial equity, income inequality, and social justice. Is it a numerical measurement? What does success look like? I keep hearing these terms, but when I ask for some specifics all you get is some flowerly language with no concrete results to be measured. Can there ever be true equality? Someone will always have an advantage over another.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 3:20 PM

I look forward to the metrics that measure the development of racial consciousness. I'd like to propose that the "isoye" be used as the unit of measure. (As in, "That Alexian Brothers assembly really backfired on us. OPRF's racial consciousness just dropped 1.7 isoyes!")


Posted: July 24th, 2013 1:58 PM

Agreed. There should be a clear set of corresponding strategies to meet these goals as well as quantifiable metrics so we can measure how effective they were in achieving these goals.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 12:19 PM

That's a pretty subjective set of goals! "Developing racial consciousness"? Seriously? Is there any measurable way to develop consciousness? This as a zero-accountability dog-and-pony show designed to make the HS administration appear to be working on a problem they have very little power over in the first place. An embarrassing thing for professional educators to attach their name to.


Posted: July 24th, 2013 11:52 AM

"Student-centered decisions" cannot be the only component of an effective Finance goal. That is an expensive way to manage finances. Shouldn't their goal be "make student-centered decisions relating to facilities and finances that also result in reduced expenditures by X% and meaningful <fill-in> process improvements"? These goals seems to be written irrespective of any financial boundaries.

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