We have all been challenged these past three months like no other time in history — first, with COVID-19 and a lengthy stay-at-home order, the subsequent economic fall-out and then, most recently, with the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others, which has put a spotlight on systemic racial injustice.
District 41 supports our Black and Latinx communities, as well as all communities of color facing racism and injustice. We believe that eradicating racism is the responsibility of each of us — we have not been and will not be neutral.
Last year, the District 41 Board of Education and superintendent participated in an equity-focused workshop hosted by the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB). Additionally, several members also completed separate equity and diversity training workshops specifically targeted for school board members.
These workshops inspired us to re-examine and refine our student support programs, workforce culture and policies regarding our school district philosophy, educational philosophy and objectives, and equal educational opportunities to confirm that they align with our equity values. We will continue to review these efforts on an annual basis moving forward.
Equity principles are also part of the Leader in Me program, which we are implementing in all District 41 schools. This program, which is based on Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, empowers young people to make positive, effective, and responsible choices by introducing and reinforcing leadership and life skills.
During the upcoming school year, we will also be working with our teachers to enhance the equity components of this program and to explore other school-based opportunities to expand our students’ world view and provide forums for discussion around social justice and racial equity issues.
This focus on diversity and inclusion is important and ongoing, and will be a key consideration in our planning to determine the best and safest way to resume instruction this fall and in years to come. As part of our pledge to continue this important work, we are engaging the Great Lakes Equity Center (GLEC) as a partner and advisor to provide technical assistance for our work to ensure social justice and equity principles are consistently implemented at the District-level, in our schools and in each of our classrooms. We will also continue to rely on resources and best practices available to the District through the Illinois Association of School Boards.
District 41 must be a place where all students, faculty/staff, parents/guardians and community members feel listened to, supported and empowered to succeed, while learning about, respecting and supporting social justice in all forms.