Leaders of the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership vowed at a meeting Wednesday night to continue to hold the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board accountable for improving black student performance.
Our goal is to “change the political landscape of the school board since they make the decisions,” said OPAL founder Cicely Fleming.
Fleming, who's also 9th Ward alderman, says the group is working on discipline and curriculum issues and other ways black students interact with the schools.
Meeting with a group of about 40 at the Levy Senior Center, OPAL leaders outlined the group’s accomplishments, including co-sponsoring an open job fair to encourage diversity in hiring and forming a task force to enhance outcomes for black students at the JEH Early Childhood Center.
OPAL also organized a press conference last fall to demand better academic outcomes for black students.
OPAL pushed successfully for creation of two new positions at District 65 -- an executive director for black student success and an equity instructional coach -- and will be represented on the candidate review committee for these jobs..
For academic achievement assessments, regardless of which one you look at, “children of color, particularly black children, are doing worse than anyone else,” said OPAL president Roger Williams.
Noting the areas of success OPAL has achieved with the D65 board, OPAL secretary Alyce Barry said that while she is encouraged by the hiring of additional black teachers, “we are not yet happy with how many they are hiring.”
“The number is still proportionately low considering the percentage of black students” in the schools, she said.
“We are also concerned about whether they are following through on their commitment to not only hire black teachers” but support them, Barry said.
OPAL is also focused on encouraging the school board to review and support the African-Centric Curriculum at Oakton School.
OPAL board member Alex Morgan said the group is also planning sessions for parents on how to advocate for their children in the schools.
Another initiative is finding and supporting pro-equity candidates for school board elections next spring.
“This is not the time to sit on the sidelines,” said Williams. “Get involved. Come to board meetings” and hold the board accountable to implement their equity goals.