Editorial: Oak Park Elementary School District 97’s Equity Policy

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It is no secret that, for decades, there have been multiple attempts at improving equity in Oak Park’s schools. The persistence of differing student outcomes that correlate closely with race and income is not a new phenomenon, nor is it rare across the nation. While there have been many attempts to address this in the past, we have yet to find a consistent and institutionalized solution in Oak Park.

The board and staff of Oak Park Elementary School District 97 recognize this historical record. We are therefore committed to implementing a structure that will deliver equitable outcomes for our students and enable all of them to reach their full potential. That is why we are undergoing a process to adopt a bold and systemic equity policy for the district.

We need your input as part of this process. Our community’s diversity will be an asset as we seek your thoughts. Our community is full of people with a broad array of experiences and expertise. Each and every person in the community has an insight that can help us understand what will make a successful equity policy. We hope you will provide us with your knowledge and wisdom.

Please let us be very clear that we are especially interested in hearing from those we have heard from least. If you have felt excluded from prior conversations in the community, we want you to know that we want to include you in this process. If you feel as though your voice is unheard, we want to hear it. We firmly believe an effective equitable policy requires an equitable process of listening to the community.

The evidence is clear that an improvement in equity is also an improvement in excellence for all. Equitable solutions build in structures that BOTH improve the performance and outcomes of students that have traditionally been marginalized AND improve the learning environment and potential for all students. Thus, a successful equity policy will result in a better school system for every student in Oak Park.

Beginning this April, there will be a number of opportunities for you to join the conversation. These include public forums, a dedicated website, live Facebook events and a dedicated email address (equity@op97.org). We look forward to hearing from you and in pursuing this policy with the community.

Our future is at stake. Let’s ensure it’s a future where we can achieve our vision of creating a positive learning environment for all students that is equitable, inclusive, and focused on the whole child.

District 97 Board of Education

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