Why Addressing Race and Equity Matters to Me?
DISTRICT | September 18, 2018
Why Addressing Race and Equity Matters to Me?

Since stepping into my role as CEO of Chicago Public Schools, I have been having conversations with the community about how to build on the incredible progress our schools have made and created  a more equitable school district.

I’m always looking to learn from experts and leaders who are digging in to long-standing challenges, and a little over a year ago I discovered Dr. Tyrone C. Howard’s work with the UCLA Black Male Institute. Dr. Howard has an asset-based approach to empowering males of color, and we share the same vision. In his work, he focuses on how men of color define success and emphasizes the importance of highlighting the great achievements of everyday men of color.

Dr. Howard stressed that as educators of color, we must begin to change the narrative that has been written about our black and Latino men. It’s time for all of our school leaders to move past the talking and move toward action.

His ideas and message really resonated with me. That’s why I invited him to speak to the African American and Latino CPS administrators who have been participating in GEM, the Great Expectations Mentoring program that the district launched this past May.

It’s a new mentoring and professional development program I launched  for our assistant principals, principals, deputy network chiefs and network chiefs. GEM provides our schools leaders with an opportunity to gain valuable insights that will help them become more effective leaders. And it also strengthens our talent pipeline for school and district leaders who come from underrepresented backgrounds. This is a program specifically designed to empower leaders and increase diversity at the highest levels of leadership here in the district.

I am committed to not only talking about race and equity, but finding solutions that will drive student achievement. I believe empowering our leaders of color to really push for change will be how we see results, and that starts at the top. I’ve worked to create a diverse cabinet that represents our city’s rich cultural heritage and various viewpoints.

However, there’s still much work ahead for us.

Dr. Howard says that if we want equity and transformation in our schools, we must understand that there will be the criticism that we’re not giving equal attention to all students. He says we must be “comfortable with giving more time, attention, and resources to those who have historically received less.”

Inequity is not an issue that we will solve in a day, or a year, but we must begin the work of approaching it in our schools. First, we must acknowledge the problem and then seek to appropriately address it.

I believe that the strength of the district lies in our diversity, and if we are going to achieve the goals laid out in the CPS Vision, we must ensure our leadership reflects the diversity of the students we serve. Students of color benefit when they see adults that look like them in leadership positions, and by  investing in the training, resources and outreach needed to make that a reality for more our students, we will become an even stronger school district and better prepare more of our students to reach their full potential.