The Tri-Board Equity Committee, created by the three public school districts in Oak Park and River Forest in June 2017 to address systemic racial inequality at Oak Park and River Forest High School and its feeder elementary schools, has released four recommendations that it hopes area school boards will authorize in the coming weeks and months.
During a regular Oak Park District 97 school board meeting on June 12, Ralph Martire, the River Forest District 90 board president and an equity committee member presented the recommendations with fellow committee member Sara Spivy, District 200 board vice president. District 97 board member Katherine Murray-Liebl rounds out the three-member committee.
The first recommendation is for each district to “inventory their current equity initiatives so we can get a sense of what the scene looks like across the board,” said Spivy, noting that the inventory would help identify ways the districts can collaborate on joint initiatives on racial equity and then evaluate their effectiveness.
The second recommendation was that the districts organize a joint town hall on “equity as a path to excellence,” according to a June 10 memo drafted by equity committee members. The meeting will allow the public to monitor the committee’s progress, and give the committee the opportunity to share updates and data with the public, Spivy said.
The third recommendation was that the three districts collaborate “to determine if there are efficiencies of scale in coordinating professional development on racial equity for boards, faculty and staff,” Spivy said.
“There may be cost savings in the three districts partnering on professional development through the [National Equity Project] or a similar organization,” according to the memo.
The fourth recommendation was that each district dedicate a staff member who would be responsible for communicating information about early childhood with residents who need it. For instance, if a parent visited D97 administrative offices seeking information on early childhood screening, there would be an appointed employee available to help guide them to the answer.
“One of the gaps in early childhood that is clear is that it’s not really a brick-and-mortar system like K-12 education,” Martire said, pointing out that the fourth recommendation was prompted by the Collaboration for Early Childhood — the Oak Park-based organization that helps parents with very young children access learning and developmental resources.
Martire said that if more families knew where, and how, to access services, it would be much easier for them to get into the early childhood development “pipeline.”
The D97 board could vote on the recommendations at its next regular board meeting on July 17. The D90 and D200 school boards are also expected to vote on the recommendations sometime soon.