During a regular District 97 school board meeting last month, Lynn Allen, the newly retired director of the district’s Multicultural Center, gave something of a farewell address to the board. Her brief remarks, delivered during the public comment portion of the meeting, chastised district officials for what she felt was their less than vigilant approach to multicultural education in recent years.
“Oak Park is at a crossroads,” Allen said, adding that “today, our school leadership seems to view multicultural education as a luxury we cannot afford.”
Allen served as director of the center for nearly 15 years before her retirement this year. The center was acquired last year by the Oak Park Public Library after library officials learned it was being moved out of its longtime space at Julian Middle School to accommodate growing enrollment levels.
Allen said, while she appreciates the library stepping in to take over the center, she believes it should’ve stayed within the district. She also criticized the district’s approach to multiculturalism more generally, saying the district has “retreated, when teaching tolerance is needed now more than ever before.”
She recommended the district make multicultural education a centerpiece of new teacher orientation, particularly for teachers coming into the district who may not be culturally sensitive enough to the needs of kids who don’t come from traditional middle-class homes.
She concluded, “I’m still in Oak Park, so if you need any help just give me a call.”