OPAL Talking Points

Remember, at a D65 meeting you have a chance to tell the Board and the Evanston community what you're thinking about and what your concerns are. Just by attending with other OPAL members, you increase our visibility and influence. 

If you have something to say but are unable to attend, please send your comments to OPAL Board Secretary, Alyce Barry, and they will be read at the meeting. 

Here's general information about attending D65 meetings.
(On the Board agenda there is sometimes a "consent agenda" consisting of items marked with an asterisk (*). These are voted on by the Board as a single item usually without discussion.)

Policy Committee on Monday, April 30

Here's the Committee agenda for Monday night. There will be printed copies on the table outside the Board Room. The Policy Committee is chaired by Sergio Hernandez. Board representatives are Joey Hailpern and Rebeca Mendoza. Some D65 administrators will also attend.

Topic 1. Suspension

At OPAL's community meeting on April 11th, we discussed the Quarterly Discipline Report which showed a sharp and disproportionate rise in suspensions of Black students. At Monday night's meeting, the Policy Committee will discuss this memo on Suspension/Discipline Policy. (Note: This memo, which is the first two pages in a PDF, has a list of links to documents that are contained elsewhere in the PDF, so there's no need to click the links.) 

The District's goals are better alignment with Illinois law (PA 99-0456) and with D65's new equity policy. Asst. Supts. Joyce Bartz and Andalib Khelghati, who wrote the memo, are recommending that the Board form a committee to examine policies used in Minneapolis and elsewhere and issue a report in the fall. To jump to the law's new requirements, see the PDF, page 22. Some ideas for comments and questions:

  • The law doesn't define what it means by a student posing "a threat to school safety" (p. 18). In the news we've seen stories about police officers who "feared for their lives" when faced with an unarmed Black child. Will D65 define "threat to school safety," and if so, how?
  • In the news we've seen store managers who reacted to the presence of Black customers by calling the police to have them removed. What assurance do Black parents have that suspensions are never the result of an educator simply wanting a Black student out of the classroom? 
  • The law prohibits an educator from advising a student to drop out, but the consequences to the educator are left to the District's discretion. What disciplinary action would D65 take in such a case, and will it be specified in the new policy?
  • The law refers to "a parent-teacher advisory committee" (see the PDF, pages 8, 20, and 23). Section 2:150 of the District 65 policy manual describes a standing committee but we find no mention of it on the D65 website. Does this committee exist? If not, will it be reconvened? If yes, how will members be chosen?
  • On page 29 of the PDF are suggested topics for D65 professional development training. The role of educators' implicit bias isn't among the topics listed. What is D65 doing to examine the role of educator bias in the disproportionate rate of suspensions of Black students?
  • The proposed committee has just one parent member (PDF, p. 2). Would it not be difficult for one parent to speak effectively for diverse marginalized groups in D65? Would it not be appropriate to have, at the very least, one parent each from the Black, White, and Latinx communities and a parent of a student with disabilities? 

Topic 2. Magnet School Enrollment

D65 has two magnet schools:  King Lab and Bessie Rhodes. As the result of a Board decision last December, Bessie Rhodes will begin a transition to an all-TWI curriculum with entering Kindergarten students this fall. (TWI (pronounced "twee") stands for Two-Way Immersion, a program designed to help native Spanish speakers learn English while teaching Spanish as a second language to native English speakers.) Many parents in the Bessie Rhodes community objected to the change, some of whom are leaving the school or the District. 

D65 also has two magnet programs, TWI and the African-Centered Curriculum (ACC) program. TWI is currently offered at five schools and is expanding to a sixth at Bessie Rhodes. ACC is offered at one school.

OPAL is pleased to see that a magnet school program can thrive, as TWI clearly has. The District devoted enormous resources to the TWI expansion program last year, and OPAL asks for similar resources to bring the ACC program to its full potential. At a Board meeting last fall we heard a promise from Asst. Supt. Stacy Beardsley that ACC would be reviewed this spring, but the issue is not listed on the Board meeting planner. The ACC program has never received the personnel and curricular resources that were part of its original design. Some ideas for comments and questions:

  • When will the ACC program be reviewed and fully resourced?  
  • D65 says that TWI functions well only when it has a full complement of students, and the District is currently recruiting Black students for TWI. What is the District doing to recruit White families for TWI?
  • D65 says that ACC also functions best with full classrooms, yet classes at Oakton aren't full. OPAL hears from families who were unaware that the ACC program exists, and we find the District's marketing language about the program unclear. Why is the District neglecting to tell all parents about ACC? What will the District do to recruit students for the program going forward?

For reference on current magnet school enrollment policy, see page 16 of the current Student Handbook and this page at the D65 website.