St. Charles School Board to discuss whether to continue agreement with Deep Equity

St. Charles School Board members will look at several options Monday when they discuss whether to continue the district’s contract with a firm the board hired to help promote diversity and equity.

School board members will discuss the contract with Deep Equity at their meeting at 7 p.m. Monday. St. Charles District 303 school board members in March voted 4-3 to approve a $119,026 contract with Deep Equity, which will provide professional learning to staff on diversity, equity and inclusion.

To date, the district has paid Deep Equity approximately $21,000. If board members voted to terminate the contract with Deep Equity, it would cost the district about $51,000.

Other options board members will consider is whether they should continue with the agreement using different materials; continue with the agreement with Deep Equity materials or to pause the agreement until the district has completed an equity audit. District administrators recommend the district continue with equity training.

Two petitions have been started that are critical of Deep Equity. The petitions also note the firm was hired before an equity audit was conducted.

At the May 10 School Board meeting, board member Ed McNally proposed the board terminate a contract with Deep Equity, which it hired to provide professional learning to staff on diversity, equity and inclusion. McNally voted against the contract along with board member Heidi Fairgrieve and newly seated board member Joseph Lackner.

McNally said he preferred the district first look at its needs in house “as opposed to using a group like Deep Equity that’s expensive and it’s an outside group that doesn’t know our community.”

“I don’t think there is anybody in this room who doesn’t want equity, the equitable treatment for all,” McNally said. “It’s a matter of how to get there.”

Two of the goals of the district’s partnership with Deep Equity are to ensure all students achieve at high levels and to eliminate educational barriers and disparities. At the May 10 meeting, board member Carolyn Waibel shared with the board a quote from a student about their feelings on the issue and reiterated her support for Deep Equity.

“As board members, you have a civic duty to uphold the highest priority to provide a sufficient and satisfactory education for all students, regardless of status or ethnic values,” Waibel said, quoting the student. “The board wonders why students keep transferring out of this community. It’s because we don’t implement programs like this.”

“That is a powerful statement coming from one of our students,” Waibel said. “I think it’s really important to go forward with Deep Equity.”

Eric Schelkopf

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