The Examiner U-46 News Feed
What is the cost, impact of U-46 ‘equity’ work?
By Seth Hancock
The Board of Education has been updated at two recent meetings on Jan. 22 and March 12 on “equity” numbers as the administration has been working on behalf of one board member, Traci Ellis, despite U-46 CEO Tony Sanders previously admitting a discussion by the entire board is required to direct staff work. The Examiner submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to attempt to get a cost of the work so far, but the district was not forthcoming.
Although the district did not provide the amount of staff hours or cost of its work on the “equity” policy/plan, it did release how much has been spent on professional development mostly surrounding “Equity and Social Justice” workshops with professors James Cohen, Beth Hatt, Pamela Hoff and Pamela Twyman. The FOIA showed that U-46 has spent $61,271 since 2013 on such workshops.
Some of the workshop titles include “Constructions of Identity and Difference,” “Making the blind spots visible-Normalizing Implicit Bias” and “Introducing culturally sensitive pedagogy in the classroom.”
Board member Phil Costello made a public statement regarding the recent presentations which showed “data regarding the disproportionate suspensions and expulsions for certain minorities” which he said “are factual and disturbing,” but “the allegations of rampant or systemic racism as a root cause are premature and reckless admissions.”
Ellis questioned the competency of U-46 teachers and staff at the March 12 meeting and Sanders said “we’re doing something wrong,” but neither provided any evidence of wrongdoing but rather suggested the data is evidence. Ellis claimed she had anecdotal stories of wrongdoing but would not share them with the board or public.
Costello, on the other hand, says district staff has been professional in handling disciplinary issues.
“To my knowledge, there has not been one credible, evidence-based claim of a racially-motivated incident,” Costello said. “Frankly, I have only seen that our District teachers and administrators demonstrate compassion and professionalism where students are accused of violating the student code. Furthermore, our team that deals specifically with investigating these felonious incidents has done a stellar job of objectively investigating and presenting data from all sources for the Board’s deliberations.”
Ellis suggested at the March 12 meeting that Costello was drawing conclusions that there was no discrimination in America for simply asking for evidence, to which Costello responded: “I didn’t suggest that by the way. I’m just looking for evidence, objective data.”
For Ellis, she said there’s an “American system problem” and she blames white people for social ills saying the “American systems were built and constructed by white people with a Eurocentric lens for white people.” Ron Raglin, assistant superintendent, said that “whiteness” is “a system that we all fall victim to.”
In his public statement, Costello said he believes racism does exist in America but “I also believe that we all face challenges from others stemming from ignorance, greed, and array of socio economic factors” and “finger pointing” won’t help solve any problems.
“Our systems have given us appropriate paths of recourse that protect individual rights when exercised,” Costello said. “There are several constructive ways to deal with inequitable challenges with the preferred behavior to find the inner strength, confidence, and supportive resources to confront the source rather than passively accepting the injustice or employing the ever-popular finger pointing. I implore all students and their families to engage in thoughtful discourse to achieve your own success rather than blaming others for your failure.”
The administration is now working on an “equity” plan and further presentations will be coming. Board member Jeanette Ward said at the March 12 meeting that “I hate dividing people up by ethnic groups,” but since the district will continue this work she wanted information regarding what leads to success noting that the numbers for Asian students showed they were disciplined less than any other ethnic group and had the largest numbers across all honors programs.
“If we did a plan like that, I’d like to see some study of what causes success…. Let’s study success… in addition to studying problems,” Ward said.
Ellis responded “So, I’m not looking to compare of Asians. They have an entirely different experience in this country, and you can hardly compare with the Asian experience and the black experience.”
The administration did not respond to Ward’s request and it is unclear if it’ll be honored.
While neither Ellis nor the district administration offered evidence for their claims, Ward has made social media posts supporting her worldview including a Wall Street Journal opinion piece written by Jason Riley, a black journalist, who provided data from the Manhattan Institute that shows in schools that have implemented practices to artificially lower suspensions and other disciplinary rates, the environments in those schools have vastly deteriorated. U-46 has implemented such practices in recent years.
“A Chicago teacher said her school became ‘lawless’ after the new discipline policy was implemented,” Riley wrote.
Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, predicts that districts that implement such practices that “school officials will either start disciplining students who shouldn’t be, or, more likely, will not discipline some students who ought to be.”
Ellis said at the March 12 meeting that “I’m not saying that kids aren’t doing what they are being accused of doing” but “black male children do not act out more than white children, they act differently.” That philosophy is one that Aaron Benner, a black teacher from Minnesota, and Walter Williams, a black economist and professor, believe is harmful and racist.
“They’re trying to pull one over on us. Black folks are drinking the Kool-Aid; this ‘let-them-clown’ philosophy could have been devised by the KKK,” Benner publicly stated after his St. Paul school implemented such practices in 2015.
“I can’t think of a more racist argument than one that holds that disruptive, rude behavior and foul language are a part of black culture,” Williams wrote in a townhall.com article titled “Equality in Discipline.”