District 211 Equity Team
Township High School District 211 believes that equity is a fundamental concept to both student success and operation as a public school system, and the District is fortunate to serve students and families that represent a large number of diverse cultures and backgrounds. The District has a strong history as a school community where concepts of equity are valued and integrated into the mindset, actions, and daily interactions of every student, staff member, and parent. District 211 has been, and continues to be, aware of the necessity that it understands and responds to the ever-changing needs within both the school community and the broader world. The District’s previous work to reduce student opportunity based on previous educational experiences and achievement gaps has shown that when all stakeholders focus on promoting equity to close these gaps, student feelings of belonging, academic achievement, and social-emotional health increase dramatically.
Educational equity ensures that the District’s decisions, policies, and practices are culturally sensitive and provide all students with access, opportunity, support, and resources. Having a clear plan of action is essential to growing knowledge, building capacity, including diverse voices, promoting accountability, implementing effective practices, producing partnerships, and eliminating barriers to learning. In order to continue to ensure equity across all facets of the District, a District 211 Equity Team is being established. This team of staff members, students, parents, and community members, will be responsible for:
1. Include and affirm the voices of students, staff, and families from the District community
2. Define the organizational priorities and practices that contribute to equity across District 211
3. Analyze qualitative and quantitative data to identify goals, metrics, and accountability measures to ensure high levels of equity across District 211
4. Create a strategic equity plan that will drive short- and long-term systematic changes and improvements for the entire community
The core committee will provide organizational leadership to multiple sub-committees of staff members, students, parents, Board of Education liaisons, and community members, which will allow for increased participation from additional stakeholders. Sub-committees will be organized to research, analyze, and provide recommendations on the following areas of focus:
1. Equitable Opportunity and Achievement
2. Equitable Curriculum and Instruction
3. Equitable Practice and Mindsets
4. School, Family, and Community Relationships
The core committee will work within the following timeline:
Phase 1: Stakeholder Engagement – beginning August 2020
Phase 2: Research and Community Input – beginning October 2020
Phase 3: Data Analysis and Application – following Phase 2
Phase 4: Development of Strategic Equity Plan – drafted spring 2021
The core committee will present a District 211 Strategic Equity Plan to the Board of Education at its June 2021 meeting.
October 26, 2020 - Board of Education, IASB Equity Training Workshop
October 26, 2020 – Board of Education, IASB Equity Training Workshop
The High School District 211 Board of Education held a special meeting on Thursday, October 26, 2020, at Hoffman Estates High School in order to participate in the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) workshop entitled Equity: An Educational Imperative. The three-hour workshop was aimed at understanding why educational equity is needed, what educational equity is, and how to make it a reality in your school district. During the interactive workshop, participants received greater confidence and skill practice in valuing and working across racial and cultural differences and had mutual support to identify unconscious, exclusive behaviors that may be exhibited at times. Participants focused on how to contribute to the school district’s mission and strategic focus on student preparedness and excellence for all students. Participants deepened their understanding of the important and central role boards of education play in creating an equitable school environment that leads to greater student success. The workshop was first previewed at the November 2019 Triple I Conference in Chicago and was facilitated by IASB Field Services Directors Dee Molinare ad Sandra Kwasa. There was no cost to District 211 for the workshop.
October 6, 2020
The full Equity Team met for their monthly meeting on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. The team participated in discussions that included concepts related to bias, cultural humility, deficit-model thinking, and authentic dialogue. Each committee then provided a summary of their past work and intended future focus and then engaged in discussions related to the implementation of Phase 1 of our plan, which is stakeholder engagement. Discussions centered around the necessity to engage all stakeholders in District 211 – including, but not limited to: students, parents, staff members, community members, and organizations. Special consideration was given to families that may experience language barriers or that have not traditionally engaged in District surveys or events. Other discussions included the desire to ensure that all stakeholders feel comfortable sharing their experiences, feel affirmed and validated in their thoughts and that we practice intentionality in how we engage stakeholders. Developing plans include the use of survey tools, focus groups, and the possibility of individual interviews. We will continue to refine our stakeholder engagement plans in the coming weeks, including the possible desire to include the use of a consultant or organization to support the plan and ensure the validity and reliability of the process and collection of responses.
The District 211 Equity Team meets monthly as both a full team and as four separate committees to organize and lead critical equity work across our schools and community. During the first committee meetings, co-chairs facilitated the following agenda items: development of norms for interaction and communication between committee members, review of areas of focus for their committee, commitment to the foundational assumptions of their team, and identification of the most important equity concepts relative to committee focus. A summary of each committee can be found below.
The Equitable Opportunity and Achievement Committee, co-chaired by Hoffman Estates High School Principal Mike Alther and Schaumburg High School Guidance Department Chair Eric Melton, first established a “high-trust, low-fear” climate by developing working agreements. Committee members participated in an activity in which they discussed several different types of equity stances and identified important concepts for further discussion. This committee will focus their efforts to ensure that all students have access to rigorous and relevant educational experiences and to ensure that all teachers have access to continuous professional learning and development.
The Equitable Practices and Mindsets Committee, co-chaired by District 211 Director of Human Resources Jim Britton and Fremd High School World Language Chair Hali Yoshimura, took part in an activity through which their committee members discussed how their identity shapes and affects their interactions with others. This committee will focus their efforts to ensure that current and future practices and procedures are culturally relevant and equitable and to ensure that the diversity of our District 211 staff reflects the diversity of our community.
The Equitable Curriculum and Instruction Committee, co-chaired by Conant High School Principal Julie Nowak and Palatine High School Instructional Coach and English Teacher Elizabeth Sheehan, organized an introductory activity so that the committee could develop a group identity. This included establishing norms for the use of Zoom as the meeting platform, working norms for interaction, and recognizing the power dynamics across the committee members. The committee will focus on ensuring that curricular decisions are made with equity as the driving force and ensuring that staff understand bias and implement culturally responsive instructional strategies.
The School, Family, and Community Partnerships Committee, co-chaired by Schaumburg High School Principal Brian Harlan and Conant High School Counselor Ophelia Hernandez, began their meeting by asking members to share their story, including information related to their background and upbringing. This allowed committee members to recognize the diverse experiences that will strengthen the committee. This committee will focus on ensuring high levels of communication, engagement, and relationship with all stakeholders as well as enhancing the authenticity and effectiveness of our family educational opportunities and community partnerships.
September 1, 2020
The District 211 Equity Team held its first meeting on Tuesday, September 1, 2020. Twenty-two students, staff and community members participated in the meeting in-person at William Fremd High School, while an additional 14 team members participated in the meeting through Zoom. Several members of the team were unable to attend the first meeting, but all stakeholders who were identified and invited have indicated that they want to commit to the team moving forward.
The meeting was structured to first offer team members the opportunity to share their thoughts about equity. Students, staff, and parents shared personal experiences, thoughts on race and equity, and hopes for what the team could accomplish in District 211 and the broader community. The team then learned about the previous equity work that has been started at each of our large high schools. Each principal spoke about what his or her school has accomplished, including focusing on learning about the concepts of implicit bias, racism, and equity. Palatine High School Principal Tony Medina shared information about the school’s development of its school-based equity team and his collaboration with consultant Dr. Gary Howard to explore “Deep Equity.” Fremd High School Principal Kurt Tenopir shared information related to Fremd’s systematic focus on increasing the number of traditionally underrepresented students in rigorous coursework, strategies, and supports to decrease behavior referrals and suspensions, and students’ increase in participation in activities and athletics over the recent years. Conant High School Principal Julie Nowak explained the “team room model,” which provides high levels of support to students through a collaborative approach between administrators and counselors, the dual focus on equity and excellence, and the impact of the school-wide equity simulation. Hoffman Estates High School Principal Michael Alther shared details behind the work of his school-based equity team, the building equitable access experience, and student listening groups that were hosted this summer. Schaumburg High School Principal Brian Harlan shared information about the school’s five-tiered equity framework – which includes creating trauma-sensitive spaces, practicing culturally responsive teaching, increasing the emphasis on listening, working with the Equity Collaborative, and addressing opportunity gaps in rigorous courses. Each principal implicitly stated that the work done over the previous years is a beginning with a look forward toward improvement and change.
At the conclusion of the meeting, each team member was asked to identify his or her preferred area of focus for upcoming committee work. Participants were then organized into the following committees: equitable curriculum and instruction; equitable practices and mindsets; equitable opportunity and achievement; and school, family, and community partnerships. Each committee is comprised of students, parents, staff members, and District 211 Board of Education members and they will begin their critical work in the next few weeks under the leadership of committee co-chairs.
The next meeting of the entire District 211 Equity Team will be held on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. During this meeting, the team will recap committee work – including future steps and needs of the committees – and the team will discuss the concepts of implicit bias, cultural humility, deficit model thinking, and authentic dialogue. Updates from these meetings will be available each month at the Board of Education meeting.