St. Charles District 303 to reconsider equity training contract
St. Charles District 303 School Board next month will discuss whether to terminate its contract with a company it recently hired to help promote diversity and equity.
At Monday's School Board meeting, board member Ed McNally proposed the board terminate a contract with Deep Equity, which it hired to provide professional training to staff on diversity, equity and inclusion. In March, the board voted 4-3 to approve a $119,026 contract with Deep Equity.
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. I think we need to make sure we have opposing viewpoints represented as well. I think this program forces assumptions that not everyone agrees are assumptions that need to be made or that are actually accurate. So before we proceed with a program like Deep Equity, I would prefer that we take a look at what our actual needs are. Again, everybody's goal is equitable treatment for all students. I would like to see high performance for all students regardless of their background."
Board members have heard from those who supported the hiring of Deep Equity as well as those who were against the idea.
"The teachers were never informed or even considered in this decision that impacts us directly," Munhall Elementary School third-grade teacher Rebecca Schwartz said in addressing board members. "Personally, I do not know a single teacher who fully understands this program, myself included, or is behind this program. As an elementary school teacher, I take pride in the fact that I teach equity and inclusion and why it is important to be different each and every year. My students do not yet see color. They are 8. I understand that Deep Equity is a teacher training program, however, there is no need for politics to drive the educational process. Rather, a culture for excellence needs to be promoted."
Board member Carolyn Waibel shared with the board a quote from a student about the issue.
"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," she said. "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."
Board member Becky McCabe said the board needs to continue to discuss the issue of equity.
"I want a conversation about where this board wants to take this organization for all kids," McCabe said. "Because if we vote down Deep Equity, we will have cheers on one side and we will have boos on the other. We are a very divided country right now. If we really believe that we're about all kids, then this board can find a way to make sure that we are about all kids. And the whole community will cheer."