The groundwork for powerful action on racial equity has been laid in Oak Park's District 97 public elementary schools. The denial of institutional racism has ended. Sincere efforts in equity training across the district have been underway. Data has been gathered and studied. A strong equity plan has been adopted with built-in measures of accountability.
That's good work and the current school board and administration deserve thanks and credit. But there is an election April 2 for the school board which will make this equity effort real or not. Happily, there are five strong candidates for the four open seats on this board.
We endorse Holly Spurlock, the only incumbent in the race, and Jung Kim, Cheree Moore and Gavin Kearney.
Currently president of the D97 school board, Spurlock offers continuity on the critical equity issue as well as leadership on district finances, enrollment and administration. Every new board member will need months to acclimate to the complex issues in this district and will benefit from Spurlock's experience.
Cheree Moore is a D97 parent of three who also came up in the school district herself. She offers an advocate's perspective that is sometimes missing on this school board. She has a clear-eyed appreciation and a fair-minded critique of how D97 works on the ground for families — especially families of color and families who need the full range of educational services the district offers. She is candid and empathic and will be a critical voice on this school board.
Gavin Kearney has been a skilled leader, as part of the district's Diversity Council, in crafting the strong equity policy the district recently adopted. As a well-regarded civil rights lawyer, he brings a wealth of experience on this topic from his work nationwide. He will help the district execute the transparent implementation of this policy and help hold it accountable for its efforts. We like his recognition that the focus on equity is a long-term project and that there will be urgent issues along the way that will need to be addressed, too.
Jung Kim is thoughtful and strong on equity. Specifically, she calls out the over identification of students of color in special ed and also in disciplinary action. Those are critical, student-by-student issues that need to be at the top of the list of equity issues. We also admire her admission of a necessary "balancing act" between property tax increases which are "unsustainable" and funding a strong and equitable education. "The district may also need to prioritize some items over others in order to be more fiscally responsible," she says. Absolutely true.
Barika Grant is also a good candidate but we do not find the depth of knowledge and perspective on important issues that we see among the other candidates.
Answer Book 2018
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2018 Answer Book, please click here.
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