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.
The District 211 Equity Team continues to meet as a full team and in four committees each month. In early February, the Team shifted their focus and efforts toward Phase 4, which is the development of a draft equity plan for District 211. The development of the plan includes the team’s analysis of current District 211 procedures and processes, as well as the research they have conducted related to concepts of equity. The draft plan is scheduled to be finished in late April 2021, which will coincide with our Phase 1 Equity and Cultural Audit findings from Bea Young & Associates.
At the December 10, 2020 Board of Education Meeting, the Board of Education approved the collaboration with Chicago-based Bea Young & Associates to conduct Phase 1 of the Equity and Cultural Audit. Phase 1 includes interviews with the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and school principals, as well as facilitating racially homogeneous student and parent focus groups at each school. The focus groups began with students and parents at Palatine High School. The focus groups at Palatine High School met on January 27, 2021, and they will meet again on February 28, 2021. This was followed by student and parent focus groups from William Fremd High School on February 3, 2021, and February 4, 2021; student and parent focus groups from James B. Conant High School on February 10, 2021, and February 11, 2021; and student and parent focus groups from Schaumburg High School on February 17, 2021, and February 18, 2021. The student and parent focus groups from Hoffman Estates High School will be held on March 3, 2021, and March 4, 2021.
The Equity Team continues to meet in four committees to work on Phase 2: Research and Community Input. The research component includes analyzing current practices and procedures in District 211 through a lens of equity. When completed, the District 211 Equity Team will combine its collective research with the community input gathered during the Equity and Cultural Audit to develop its equity plan.
At its December 10, 2020 meeting, the Board of Education approved the collaboration with Chicago-based Bea Young & Associates to conduct Phase 1 of the Equity and Cultural Audit. This includes interviews with the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and school principals, as well as facilitating racially homogeneous student and parent focus groups at each school. These focus groups will begin meeting via Zoom the week of January 25, 2021, and will be completed by the end of March 2021. Students and parents from each high school will be offered an opportunity to participate in a focus group, and if a large number of students or parents indicate interest, volunteers will be randomly chosen one week prior to each scheduled focus group. At the conclusion of the focus groups, Bea Young & Associates will provide a report.
The Equity Team continues to meet monthly as a full group and smaller committees and has accomplished the majority of its work from Stage 1: stakeholder engagement. During this phase, the Team discussed the importance and necessity to include and affirm the voices of students, staff, and families in the school community. Through research and collaboration, the Team ultimately determined that an outside organization was necessary to ensure the validity of the outreach process and reliability of the feedback obtained during the process. During November, representatives from the Equity Team researched multiple organizations that partner with school districts to facilitate stakeholder engagement regarding equity, and one organization was identified as both the best fit and most well-versed in equity concepts in the State.
At its December 10, 2020 meeting, the Board of Education authorized the superintendent to enter into an agreement with Bea Young & Associates to provide professional services to District 211 and to conduct an Equity & Cultural Audit at a cost of $45,000. The contract proposal contains two phases of work: Phase I would begin in February 2021 and would consist of seven individual interviews with District 211 administrators, 20 two-hour homogeneous focus groups with up to 12 students each, and 20 two-hour homogeneous focus groups with up to 12 parents/family members each; and would include all corresponding documentation and written reports. The cost of Phase I would be funded by existing 2020-2021 Title 2 funds.
In the contract, there is an option to continue work into the 2021-2022 school year, identified as Phase II. Phase II would consist of 11 District-level leadership interviews, including all Board members and administrators who report directly to the Superintendent, 16 two-hour focus groups of up to 12 certified and classified staff members, and two two-hour focus groups of up to 12 school-level administrators, and will include all corresponding documentation and written reports. A cost estimate of Phase II will be available at the conclusion of Phase I.
A copy of the Equity Team update submitted to the Board of Education is available here.
November 12, 2020 – Board of Education Meeting, Presentation: Equity and Professional Learning
November 12, 2020 – Board of Education Meeting, Presentation: Equity and Professional Learning
At its November 12, 2020 meeting, the Board of Education viewed a presentation on equity and professional learning. Over the past several years, District 211 has built a solid foundation and continued to grow in its commitment to ensure educational equity for all students. District 211 schools prioritize systematic equity and provide every student with the access to educational resources and rigor they need at the right moment in their education regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, home language, disability, sexual orientation, family background, or socioeconomic status. The ability to successfully accomplish these objectives requires making professional learning opportunities available to staff.
Assistant Superintendent Joshua Schumacher, Palatine High School Principal Tony Medina, Fremd High School Principal Kurt Tenopir, Conant High School Principal Julie Nowak, Schaumburg High School Principal Brian Harlan, and Hoffman Estates High School Principal Michael Alther presented details on professional learning related to equity at each District 211 school. A copy of the presentation is available here.
The District 211 Equity Team continues to meet as a full team and in committees each month to make progress toward a recommended District 211 equity plan. Per the stated plan, each committee has identified key stakeholders that need to be engaged as part of the responsibility to include and affirm the voices of students, staff, and families from the District 211 community. While each committee has a specific area of focus, each committee has identified similar groups of stakeholders and a similar process for engaging them. In order to organize this work most effectively, the team is currently identifying outside organizations that could potentially collaborate with the District 211 team to organize and facilitate an efficient overall process for stakeholder engagement. The collaboration with a professional organization or consultant outside of District 211 would provide expertise in the process of valid and reliable collection of feedback and would provide a bias-free analysis of the themes that may come from community feedback.
As the details are finalized from Phase 1: Stakeholder Engagement, the Team is moving toward Phase 2: Research and Community Input. At the November meeting of the Equity Team, each subcommittee provided information regarding their proposed plan for stakeholder engagement and participated in several discussions centered on creating a District 211 Equity Statement. The discussions included student, parent, and staff feedback about what we value as a district; what specific components should be included in our equity statement; and how these components connect to our existing mission, vision, and values. Each committee also explored committee-specific statements that would define their research and upcoming data analysis.
Also, during the November Equity Team meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Joshua Schumacher shared with the team the concepts that were included in the Special Board of Education meeting training that was conducted by the Illinois Association of School Boards. Specific attention was given to the Board’s engagement with the “Cultural Responsiveness Continuum” and the efforts to move toward the “acceptance/celebrate” and “valuing/color brave” areas of the continuum.
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.