OPRF teacher takes her talents to Stanford

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

The 10-part documentary series, America to Me, which took a probing look at the racial inequities at Oak Park and River Forest High School, has inspired one of the film's subjects to create an entire college course. 

Jessica Stovall, the OPRF teacher who is currently on leave from the high school to pursue a doctorate at Stanford University, created a curriculum series called "America Never was America to Me: Race and Equity in U.S. Public Schools," WBEZ recently reported. 

Stovall's attempts to forge a meaningful relationship with former OPRF student Ke'shawn Kumsa was among the documentary's dramatic touchpoints — as was her failed attempts to establish a racial equity curriculum at OPRF. Many observers felt that the failure to implement Stovall's course reflected poorly on school administrators. Now Stovall is seeing her ideas flourish elsewhere. 

"People are having really intense and important conversations about race and equity," Stovall told WBEZ. "So I thought, why not bring it to an institution like Stanford University that's at the forefront of some of these conversations about race and schools?"

Michael Romain 

Email: michael@oakpark.com

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Ramona Lopez  

Posted: March 26th, 2019 1:47 PM

The liberal elements of whites are those who have perfected the art of selling themselves to the Negro as a friend of the Negro. Getting sympathy of the Negro, getting the allegiance of the Negro, and getting the mind of the Negro. Then the Negro sides with the white liberal, and the white liberal use the Negro against the white conservative. So that anything that the Negro does is never for his own good, never for his own advancement, never for his own progress, he's only a pawn in the hands of the white liberal. The worst enemy that the Negro have is this white man that runs around here drooling at the mouth professing to love Negros, and calling himself a liberal, and it is following these white liberals that has perpetuated problems that Negros have. If the Negro wasn't taken, tricked, or deceived by the white liberal then Negros would get together and solve our own problems.....Malcolm X 1963

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: March 26th, 2019 1:44 PM

Molly, Just curious, why don't you hold the leadership of OPRF responsible for anything. You know, the black principal and the black superintendent who run the day-to-day operations of the school? I know I know, as an SJW, you can't hold people of color accountable because that goes against the grain and then you would be labeled a racist. So with a black principal running the show for the past 11 years and the disparity not improving, you lay the blame at the feet "community" and you think the answer is electing SJW board members.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: March 26th, 2019 12:08 PM

Molly, You like many others, assume because there is disparity between black and white students, the reason MUST be the school is racist. You connect those dots with little to no evidence. There could be absolutely no other reason. Please specify which policies/teachers/rules/text books, etc. are racist, so the good people at OPRF can rectify it. Steve James, like most film makers, had an agenda and it sounds like you bought it. So what is an equity officer supposed to do? If they ensure all students have equal opportunities, I'm OK with that. Unfortunately, most won't be happy until the outcomes are equalized. You call Oak Parkers complacent? Have you been to any of the marches? Have you been to any of the community meetings? Have you seen our tax bills? You, like most SJW's, think feelings trump everything else. It's easy to blame others, but maybe you and your fellow SJW's should put down your cardboard signs and look in the mirror. Maybe instead of marching you volunteer as a tutor for black kids. Maybe instead of marching you help the parents find gainful employment. Nah, you would rather just gripe. It's a LOT easier, garners much more attention and ignites the dopamine in your head!!!!

Molly Sackler  

Posted: March 26th, 2019 11:29 AM

Oak Park schools are riddled with racist disparities and a shameful history of losing wonderful, caring teachers of color. If only our communities would value and listen to educators like Jessica Stovall. Stanford University gets it and we can only wonder what it takes for Oak Park to get it. It's astonishing that "America To Me" hasn't served as a wake up call to this complacent, provincial little town. With an election on the horizon, I hope voters will elect school board members and village trustees who go beyond lip service about equity. We need to vote in leaders who are are social justice warriors, willing to ruffle feathers, and make real changes.

Drew Rein  

Posted: March 17th, 2019 2:47 PM

I believe Ms. Stovall used ATM as a springboard for furthering her career and it worked! She was not very popular among her colleagues and complained to her students about feeling hurt. Perhaps someday one of them will share why that was. In any event there was/is already a promising program in place to address the gap but, apparently, she knew better. Stanford, mired in the current admissions scandal, might be just the place for her. I'm sure she thinks she can fix it.

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: March 16th, 2019 4:55 PM

This is a huge loss for OPRF High School. If you saw "America to Me" you know she had some great ideas to help the opportunity gap. Perfect example of not listening to a good teacher with new ideas. Her ideas have now been proven to work at other schools. Now we've lost her. Hope we learn from this. We need to be open to new ideas from our teachers.

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