Those in favor, against St. Charles Dist. 303 hiring company to help promote equity and diversity speak at school board committee meeting

St. Charles District 303 school board members on Tuesday heard from both proponents and opponents of a proposal for the district to hire a company to help promote diversity and equity.

At the School Board’s Learning and Teaching Committee meeting, board members discussed a proposal to partner with Deep Equity to provide professional learning to staff on diversity, equity and inclusion and to develop student leaders. The district’s administrative staff has recommended board members approve an agreement with Deep Equity for $119,026 and that the board hire a director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Batavia School District is one of the neighboring school district that have worked with Deep Equity. Dist. 303 has a goal by March to develop a plan to “create a culture that supports equity, diversity, and inclusion for CUSD 303 students and staff that reflects our diverse society and develops skills in appreciating differences, overcoming conflicts, and contributing to society.”

St. Charles parent Elisa Ignash spoke against the proposal.

“We as parents and taxpayers have valid concerns about the divisiveness that the Deep Equity program has a precedent for creating at other schools and we do not want it for our children,” she said in addressing board members.

Debbie Baron, reading specialist in the middle schools at Dist. 303 for the past 20 years, was one of several teachers who spoke in favor of the proposal.

“There is a disparity in the performance of some subgroups of our student population,” Baron said. “The disparity is not only in performance, but also in the rate of growth. As a teacher, as some students are growing and learning more and closing gaps faster than other students, I have to own that. But this is a districtwide trend, so we have to own that. And we have to fix that.”

A bill designed to address racial inequities in education was recently sent to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk. Superintendent Jason Pearson said that District 303 recognizes that it has some equity work to do, “absent anything at the state level.”

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.