DeKalb superintendent finalist forum: Marcey Sorensen

DeKALB - Marcey Sorensen said schools with equity and diversity issues can sometimes be blind to those issues.

So when she saw the DeKalb District 428 was looking for a superintendent with an eye on addressing those issues within the district, Sorensen said she knew it was a job she was interested in.

"It is really powerful for a superintendent candidate to read an equity plan or a job description that already identifies an area of growth," Sorensen said. "Sometimes a superintendent has to walk in and say, so, did we know we had a diversity problem? That's not a good situation to walk into."

On Wednesday, Sorensen was the second of four candidates for the superintendent position to participate in a community forum. Lorenzo Russell spoke at a forum on Monday with two more candidates to go Thursday and Friday.

"I think the power of the community lies in the fact [that] here's an area of opportunity for us, we've named it and we're going to expect our superintendent to work on that," Sorensen said. "And so you ask me why DeKalb. That's why DeKalb."

Sorensen is the assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for Fort Worth (Texas) Independent School District. She also has held leadership roles at CPS and in Madison, Wisconsin.

She said her passion for equity is one reason she is a strong literacy advocate.

"We know that is the gateway to accessing information and everything else moving forward," Sorensen said. "Ensuring that our youngest learners are proficient readers is really important to me. It's a social justice issue to me."

In terms of turning talk about equity into action, Sorensen said from a student's perspective, it's easy. She said children want to be engaged with and someone to listen to them.

Sorensen said she is on the racial equity committee in her current position.

"In terms of promoting diversity and equity and inclusion among teachers and staff, it's inviting folks to the table who haven't always been invited," Sorensen said. "It's really about engaging multiple perspectives, so how do you bring those multiple perspectives to the table and honor those with different experiences than your own?"

She added that also means a diverse workforce.

"It's working with universities and maybe even creating a grow your own within your district to ensure that we are actively seeking to recruit teachers that are with bilingual, multilingual or represent the colors of the students in our district," Sorensen said.

She said in her current district in Fort Worth, one of the benefits of remote learning was that it shined a light on inequity in technology.

"What we have learned, that we can celebrate, is we finally addressed an inequity across the nation I would say in terms of ensuring access to technology," Sorensen said. "DeKalb is ahead of the game in terms of you're a 1-to-1 district. We were not. ... So we found ourselves in a situation here where we had to provide Chromebooks, laptops, hotspots to students and families in preK through five, and we had to do that quickly. So I think we addressed an inequity that existed.":

When asked about returning to learn, Sorensen said getting back into the classroom is a top priority.

"I have yet to run across anyone that's said we don't need to be back," Sorensen said. "But I think the caveat is that coming back safely is the priority. ... The competing commitment, and it's real, and it needs to be honored, is do we do that safely?"

Sorensen said that what the district was looking for really resonated with her.

"My entire body of work has been with young people of color, with bilingual populations and really focused on student achievement," she said. "And ensuring the lives of students and communities I served were impacted in a positive way by my leadership and our focus on doing really good, hard work for students of color and all students to make sure every student was able to realize their potential and hopes, dreams and aspirations."

Eddie Carifio

Has been the sports editor in DeKalb since 2014.