During a Sept. 4 regular meeting, the District 97 school board voted 7-0 to approve a $30,000 contract with Alma Advisory Group in order to increase equity and diversity among the district’s administrators, faculty and staff.

The Chicago-based consulting firm will work with district officials in creating a long-term plan “to address our desire to recruit, hire, and retain a more equitable workforce,” according to a memo drafted by Carrie Kamm, D97’s senior director of equity and Laurie Campbell, assistant superintendent of human resources.

District officials said Alma has already conducted focus groups with principals, teachers, district leaders and community members, as well as an analysis of the district’s teacher recruitment and hiring process.

Alma will provide district officials with a set of hiring recommendations based on best practices, develop a detailed first-year action plan and establish a working group comprising district officials that will help set long-term hiring goals, among many other responsibilities.

District officials said hiring Alma is part of a more comprehensive, “deliberate focus on equity” across the district. Other equity-related actions the district has already implemented include the creation last year of the senior director of equity role that Kamm currently occupies and reports directly to Supt. Carol Kelley.  

District officials also said they’ve developed “a shared priority for equity among all district leaders” by making equity central to the district’s strategic planning and overall goal-setting.

In February, officials outlined actions they had taken up to that point to recruit more minority teachers after a petition drive created by Oak Park Call to Action, a local activist group, gained some traction among community members.

Citing data released in the Illinois Report Card, the group demanded that both districts increase the number of non-white teachers they hire.

According to the report card, which measures the annual performance of school districts based on data those districts give to the Illinois State Board of Education, non-white students comprise 45 and 47 percent of the student bodies at D97 and OPRF, respectively. Nonwhite teachers at D97 and OPRF are only 19 percent and 21 percent of the teaching population at each district, respectively.

At the time, Campbell said the district increased the percentage of black teachers from the 2016-17 to 2017-18 school years by 1 percent. She also said the district consulted with various community groups to look at ways it could change its hiring application “in order to screen for people with high levels of cultural competency,” among other criteria.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com

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