Equity and Inclusion at District 99
District 99’s mission is to provide high quality educational opportunities for all students in a caring, equitable and inclusive environment.
D99 Diversity Committee
D99 Diversity Committee Members: front row: Nikki Golden, Negin Voss, Alison Helms, Kierstin Thompson; second row: Sheldon Davis, Courtney White, Nader Najjar, Samiyah Nageeb; third row: Omar Davis, Gabe Harris, Pete Theis. (Members not pictured: Catherine Robinson, Vel Vetri, Ken Sorensen, Mark Wasik, Rob Lang)
District 99 reinstated the District Diversity Committee during the 2013-14 school year. The committee is comprised of teachers and administrators who meet monthly to discuss ways to recruit and retain diverse staff members, as well as discuss issues concerning diversity in the district. This group created a Diversity Video, which is featured on the district’s website to explain our mission, and recruit staff. The Diversity Committee led the district to add the SEED and Equity Team professional learning opportunities to the D99 Professional Learning Program (described below), and actively recruits new staff members through job fairs and other activities.
District 99 launched SEED as a development opportunity in 2015. SEED is a peer-led professional learning program that promotes change through self-reflection. The program encourages individuals to examine their own biases and experiences as a basis to grow. SEED participants converse about topics of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability/disability and other cultural experiences in order to drive personal, organizational, and societal change toward greater equity and diversity.
Over 80 faculty and staff members have volunteered to participate in this powerful and introspective training, which consists of nine evening classes after work hours during the school year.
Four faculty members are SEED leaders and have received in-depth, professional training, including:
- Samiyah Nageeb (DGN)
- Alison Helms (DGS)
- Kierstin Thompson (DGS)
- Courtney White (DGN)
District 99 Equity Team
D99 Equity Team Members: Stephanie Beck, Paula Fernandez, Chris Guerrieri, Lisa Lichtman, Teri Manderino, Nader Najjar, Paula Rada, Tim Tilton, John Wander, Courtney White, Jimmy Martinez, Marybeth Senser, Christy Landschoot, Riley Naff, Jennifer Niendorf, Kim Pakowski, Motti Pikelny, Kierstin Thompson, Vel Vetri, Kenneth White, Jamie Workman, Rob Lang. DGN Student Members: Jay Emerson, Melena Harris, Jordan Lewis, Brady Moore, Naomi Rajesh, Ariana Osorio Sanchez. DGS Student members: Ysa Pakowski, Ivan Torres, Kayla Smith, Justin Mitchell, Andy Agyei.
To ensure a more direct and greater student impact of our equity work, the district formed the District 99 Equity Team in 2016. The Equity Team is charged with providing planning, facilitation, and oversight of applying equity work into learning. The team accomplishes this by developing engaging professional learning programs for faculty, staff and students. There are 21 faculty and support staff members from across the different departments who serve on the Equity Team, as well as 11 students.
As a foundation for this critical professional learning, the district elected to follow the work of Gary Howard, an expert and pioneer in transforming systems to achieve equity and achieve a culturally responsive climate in schools. Howard’s “Deep Equity” program is focused on creating an equitable place of learning for students. The program aims to develop cultural competence and effectiveness through comprehensive and systematic professional learning. To guide the Equity Team’s work and to align with best practices, two outside consultants work with the team.
Ongoing Support: Diversity Advisors
D99 Diversity Advisors: Britni Mitchell (DGN) and Sheldon Davis (DGS)
In order to respond to the immediate needs and concerns of staff, District 99 has designated two faculty members to serve as District Diversity Advisors. In addition to providing support to individuals with marginalized identities, the advisors also facilitate conversations surrounding diversity and school culture with groups of staff members, regardless of social identity. Currently, Britni Mitchell (DGN) and Sheldon Davis (DGS) serve as the District Diversity Advisors.
Faculty and Staff Training
The Equity Team began engaging all faculty in the spring of 2017 by sharing some stories of student experiences regarding race and equity. Then in May 2017, Dr. Howard presented to all faculty to provide an overview of the impact of professional learning on student experience. The training continued in August 2017, when all faculty attended small-group sessions to discuss and explore issues of equity.
In the 2018-19 school year, all district administrators participated in four full-day workshops. These four day workshops are available to all adult learners starting in the 2019-20 school year. In addition, all district faculty and staff are participating in six 80-minute trainings during Late Start Mondays throughout the school year. The focus of last year was to build “tone and trust” to listen and learn from the experiences of one another, and to work together to find opportunities to positively impact student experiences through an equity and inclusion lens.
Focusing on the Future
Student participation is essential in order for the equity and inclusion work at District 99 to be successful. There are several student groups at each of the schools already focused on promoting equity and supporting marginalized students, and the district will continue to support these efforts. A few examples of these student groups are:
- United Men & Women of Strength
- Imani Steppers
- Latino Student Group
- DGS Steppers
- Caribbean Soul
In addition, in 2019 the school principals selected students to serve as Student Equity Leaders. These 11 student leaders will learn about the district’s efforts to date, communicate what they and their student peers need, and partner with adults to engage the schools in an age-appropriate way. During the 2019-20 school year, District 99 will be partnering with My Name, My Story to engage and empower over 350 student leaders to lead and guide District 99 towards engaging all students in this important work.