TO: Board of Education
FROM: Paul Sally
DATE: July 10, 2020
SUBJECT: Culture, Climate, and Equity - Annual Plan Update and Summer 2020 Work
When the Board of Education adopted New Trier 2030 in January 2019, our values and goals around equity were clearly stated throughout the plan, but most specifically in the Culture, Climate, and Equity framework area.
Our core values and beliefs in the area of Culture, Climate, and Equity as stated in New Trier 2030 are:
- We believe an equitable, safe, inclusive, and welcoming climate is not only necessary for students to learn and supports student growth, but is ethically in alignment with our mission.
- We believe that an equitable, safe, inclusive, and welcoming climate:
- creates the conditions that allow individuals to reach their full potential.
- is built upon respect and the appreciation of differences.
- holds individuals accountable for their actions and creates access to justice.
- We believe that all students, no matter their race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, innate abilities, or academic levels, have the right to equitable opportunities to pursue their interests and have the right to a rigorous and rich curricula and inspiring instruction that promotes intellectual growth, exploration, and risk-taking.
- We believe what makes our school better for the most vulnerable students makes the school better for all students.
Our goals in the area of Culture, Climate, and Equity as stated in New Trier 2030 are:
- To create a culture of equity that appreciates and celebrates differences across the school by exploring individual identities and the identities of others.
- To create a culture in which students define their identities more holistically beyond academic achievement and level placement.
- To create a culture that reduces stress and teaches students the strategies to effectively manage the stress they experience.
- To create learning environments and curricula that encourage empathy, create interpersonal connections, embrace diverse identities, and explore multiple perspectives.
- To create an environment in which each individual's needs are met and in which every person feels they belong.
- To identify and promote those parts of our culture that enhance learning and a sense of belonging, such as our dedication to service, compassion, critical thinking, and empathy.
It is with these core values and goals in mind that we have pursued our work on equity through the 2019-2020 Annual Plan and our Summer 2020 Equity Committees, which are assessing where we are and the goals we need to set for 2020-2021 given our progress and the heightened awareness and increased sense of urgency around issues of equity and injustice in our community, state, and nation.
This memo summarizes our work from 2019-2020 and is a progress report of our summer work thus far. At the August Board of Education meeting, I will present specific recommendations for our equity work as part of our 2020-21 Annual Plan.
2019-2020 Revisited - The Annual Plan and Other Equity Work
In each area, the Annual Plan sets a goal or two to ensure we are moving toward the overall goals set forth in New Trier 2030. However, we know that much other work done in the school is fueled by the commitment in the Strategic and Annual Plan. Below is a short summary of the work that was accomplished in the area of Culture, Climate, and Equity.
Annual Plan - Departmental Equity Goals
In 2019-2020, each department/area set a specific equity goal and formed an equity committee within their department. Two representatives from each area were part of a school-wide Equity Goals Committee led by Tim Hayes and Denise Dubravec that discussed the connections, synergies, and overlap of the departmental goals. This school- wide committee established a level of communication and accountability that is necessary for these types of comprehensive initiatives. The departmental work encompassed curricular, instructional, and professional development goals as appropriate for the area and their teachers.
Affinity groups have existed at New Trier for a number of years. These are groups of students who share an identity and meet in a supportive environment to share experiences, socialize, communicate, and educate. Our support and connection with those groups and their leaders increased significantly in 2019-2020. New Trier's existing affinity groups we have are: Black and Brown Club (Northfield Campus), Black Student Alliance (Winnetka Campus), Latinx, Muslim Student Association, Skittles - students identifying as
LGBTQ+, Transgender/Gender Expansive Group, the Mixed-Race Affinity Group, and Young Asians With Power (YAWP). In addition, this year, we have created a Coalition of these Affinity Groups to increase their voice and help students connect and share experiences.
This year we expanded our promotion and use of TrevTips to help students share experiences and concerns about incidents that impact our campus climate and detract from the school having a safe and respectful learning environment for all. The concerns that students can share include: personal safety or safety of another student; hazing, harassment, or bullying; or incidents of hate speech or bias.
In the spring of 2019, as stories about racist photographs in college yearbooks made national news, New Trier High School faculty, staff, students, and administrators questioned whether similar images may exist in our school's 118-year history. In response, New Trier's Civics and Social Justice class, the Voices in Equity student group, and other student volunteers decided to examine New Trier yearbooks dating back to the school's founding as part of a class project. They discovered examples of early racist cartoons and jokes as well as photographs of students in blackface, of students and faculty in Native American headdresses and face paint, and of students in costumes meant to represent other cultures either in school productions or during dress-up days such as Halloween.
After listening to the students, the administration committed to developing a statement that is provided to anyone who uses our yearbooks. The statement acknowledges and expresses regret for the pain, fear, and exclusion for students whose identities are depicted in these images. Starting in the 2020-2021 school year, that statement will be provided to anyone who checks out a yearbook. It will also be included in the curriculum of classes that use the yearbooks as part of their research. The statement is also on our Archives webpage and our Commitment to Equity webpage. We have also instituted practices to review publications with an equity lens prior to publishing.
This year, our new Director of Human Resources, Renee Zoladz, assessed our current hiring practices and made a number of significant strides toward our New Trier 2030 goal "to recruit, develop, and retain a divers and exceptional faculty". Areas of progress included building relationships with a broader set of collegiate institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), encouraging expansion of our use of professional networks, examining the processes and questions we use to screen candidates, and ensuring that candidates of color were interviewed for each open position. While hiring was not explicitly named in our 2019-2020 Annual Plan, we will have a concrete measurable goal for the 2020-2021 school year.
Professional Development and Leadership Development
We have expanded our professional development offerings. We expanded from the lunch and learn format to offer a half-day workshop for Understanding Islam. We also offer extended workshops over multiple days for staff such as Uncovering Unconscious Bias: Opening the Door to Understanding Differences Between Us, Power of One, Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED), and Beyond Diversity. Leadership teams on both campuses and several departments conducted a comprehensive book study using Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility . We sent six faculty members from the Diversity Professional Development Committee and Professional Development Council to a 2-day Understanding Whiteness and Its Impact on Teaching and Learning workshop for white teachers in February. We plan to have the facilitators host the workshop at New Trier for our faculty.
New Trier began its journey on implementing restorative justice practices in the 2019-2020 school year. More than 20 staff members and leaders participated in a two-day training on restorative justice practices led by the Umoja Student Development Corporation. These practices focus on student growth and learning through students taking ownership of their actions, understanding the harm that those actions caused another student or the school at large, and working to repair the damage. We will see a push to extend our professional development and use of these practices in the 2020-2021 Annual Plan.
Power of Language
In the 2018-2019 school year, we instituted an Adviser Room lesson on the freshman campus about the N-word and other slurs. The lesson provided some historical context, reasons why the word should not be used, and unequivocally stated that we do not allow the use of the N-word on our campuses. In 2019-2020, we extended that lesson to all year groups as a lesson about the Power of Language. Our goal was to engage students in understanding how the use of derogatory language reflects on them, hurts others, and damages our school community.
Summer 2020 Equity Committee Work
To advance our work this summer, we have created seven subcommittees of faculty, staff and administration focused on a variety of topics. These committees will make recommendations to the administration for moving our work forward during the next school year, which I will present at the August 2020 Board of Education meeting.
Over the past several weeks, the school has received hundreds of communications from current and former students, staff members, community members, and others on the topic of equity. Many of these communications share deeply personal stories and reflections about their time at New Trier. Some reflect on how equity and topics related to race or marginalized groups are reflected in the curriculum, others talk of their preparation for a world that is different than our school and community, and still others reflect on interactions with student peers and staff members. A very small number of communications have expressed a concern about how we approach our equity work. I would like to thank each individual who took the time to share their story and truth with me and with the district. I value each communication we have received and these have informed the development of our plans.
A consistent message in the communications we received is a willingness to give back to our school through participating in equity work. We have launched a form on our Continued Commitment to Equity webpage that allows students, parents, alumni, and community members to voice their interest in helping us move our equity work forward. We have contacted all who expressed an interest in seeing change at New Trier to give them an opportunity to join our work, including all people who contacted the Board of Education. As part of their work, each committee will engage with a set of volunteers in a Zoom session to hear stories and perspectives, share ideas, and listen to feedback.
The next section provides a brief overview of each committee and the initial questions or ideas they are developing.
Climate and Professional Expectations (including hiring and SEL)
- How can we expand the current professional development opportunities and require all staff to participate in this work at some level?
- How can the district continue to expand its work to recruit and hire more people of color for faculty and administrative positions at New Trier?
- Can a comprehensive onboarding program that addresses equity issues be developed and implemented?
- How do we set professional expectations for our staff that address equity issues?
- How do we expand opportunities for students to see/work with POC by developing a "sister school initiative" or other similar programs?
Student Voice and Creating an Inclusive Community
- How can we determine a meeting structure to sustain existing equity and affinity groups during the 20-21 school year given the new block schedule and possibility of remote/hybrid learning (time, space, mentor schedules, x-block)?
- Can the district expand the current affinity group structure by providing more "entry points" for NT students to engage in anti-racist work?
- Can a student anti-racist team focus on the inclusivity of our physical space?
Curriculum and Instruction
- What are the characteristics or qualities of equitable curriculum and instruction?
- What topics, titles, and concepts should students encounter over their four-year experience?
- What stories and voices are missing from our curriculum that we should include?
- When units or texts by authors of marginalized groups are included do they perpetuate single-story stereotypes of victimization, poverty, and powerlessness?
- How can we connect some of our work on critical thinking to this work?
- How can we include student voice in the curriculum development process?
Professional Development (including SEL)
- How can the district establish fresh PD offerings that give faculty "new" outside voices besides Beyond Diversity?
- Can the equity professional development model be reframed around a scope and sequence that aligns with our plans, becoming more proactive?
- Should some professional development courses, focusing on anti-racist topics, be mandatory for faculty and address needs at different points in carriers?
- Can PD include the student voice, providing staff with a clear, direct, tangible impact on their experience?
Policy and other systemic practices
- Can a report be developed for each graduating class, starting with the class of 2020, focusing on the equity lens that incorporates data from a variety of sources that is publicly available and can be used to develop future plans related to curriculum and the student experience?
- How can we examine some gender based traditions, such as single sex adviser room and graduation attire to better understand how they can support students of all gender identities?
Restorative Practices and Discipline
- How can the school adjust its philosophical approach to discipline to incorporate restorative practices?
- What steps can be taken to analyze and expand current restorative practices through analyzing data and current consequences?
- Research schools that have successfully implemented Restorative Justice systems
- What can we learn through researching and considering the implementation of a peer to peer council to address some discipline incidents?
- How do we implement and enhance the communication plan that has been developed to report on incidents to our school community?
Student programming, awareness, and alternatives to seminar day
- How can the X Block time be used for quarterly seminars related to equity, race, and understanding and appreciating our differences?
- Can X Block time be used as a voluntary time for some students to engage with speakers, students at other schools, or to address topics related to a particular background or identity?
The most important next step is developing the equity goals that will be part of the 2020- 2021 Annual Plan. We have tremendous participation from our faculty and enormous interest from our students, alumni, parents, and wider community. After our August Board Meeting, we will update our Commitment to Equity webpage with all of this information.