Racial equity key to long-term plans, OPRF groups told
Chala Holland, an assistant principal for instruction at Oak Park-River Forest High School, said discussing race is hard but necessary. | File Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 29, 2013 9:57AM
OAK PARK — Five task forces working on a long-term strategic vision for Oak Park-River Forest High School have been told to make racial equity central to their talks.
The groups have been assembled to support mission, vision and goal statements for the high school.
“Race is a lens for equity for who we really are. It defines the culture of the district and it defines the movement within the building, and this is something we don’t want to lose,” District 200 Superintendent Steven T. Isoye told members of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee Monday night.
The task forces are made up of about 55 stakeholders — parents, students, teachers and other residents. Some served on the steering committee; some are new to the process.
Even though equity is one of five strands that emerged over months of study and discussion by the committee, racial equity, in particular, is a core value that’s evolved in the goals of District 200’s board since 2005, Isoye said.
The other strands of the strategic plan are holistic education; transformational teaching, learning and leadership; supportive learning environment; and facilities and finance. Each has an assigned task force to develop an action plan.
Though the steering committee has discussed several areas in which equity is important, including gender and disability, racial equity appears to make the difference in OPRF’s ability to achieve annual yearly progress. AYP is a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and District 200 has been unable to meets it annual AYP goal.
“Race is having the most devastating impact on the Black students in our school,” Chala Holland, assistant principal for instruction. Race, she said, intersects with all other issues but still requires an isolated discussion.
“That is a hard topic to tackle, and it’s a very personal conversation,” she said.
According to the Illinois State Board of Education, OPRF’s African-American student population is 27.3 percent, much higher than the 18 percent average throughout the state.
Even without the strategic plan, District 200 has implemented several strategies to address racial inequality, Isoye and staff asserted. Efforts have included founding membership in the Minority Student Achievement Network, a national coalition of school districts that examines issues of race, and development of a district-based Courageous Conversations About Race group.
Facilitators leading the process said they hope to have enough information from the task forces to start writing a first draft of the final strategic plan around May 24 and to have board approval by the end of June. The plan would be implemented in the fall.
To learn more about participant views or to follow the OPRF strategic planning process, visit www.oprfhs.org and click on the “Strategic Planning” link in the far-left column.