I was first motivated to run for school board when the answer to my questions about improvements for the school in conversations around the community was frequently “I don’t know, it’s always been that way.”
We had deep discussions about the lack of air conditioning and 1-1 computing at LT in 2018-19. But over the summer of 2020, a refreshed conversation emerged around the achievement gap and racial belonging at the school that really motivated me to run a second time.
LT felt this was important, and they’d made efforts, and the school board wanted to learn more before releasing an equity statement. They would hire consultants and have special trainings – it would take some time, but it was an encouraging acknowledgement that the board wanted to make this right. Seven months later, the board released and instantly passed an equity statement.
I absolutely agree with everything that was written in the statement, but this was not the racial equity statement that I feel the community was waiting for – in fact, the equity statement did not specifically address or mention race at all. We must not leave race out or sweep it into a bucket of “all students” if we truly want to make progress in this area.
In order to provide meaningful equity to marginalized student groups, District 204 should be bold and specific. If elected, I will advocate that the District specifically acknowledge that complex societal and historical factors contribute to inequities within our school.
This history has negatively impacted the health, education, and economic outcomes for our Latinx and African-American students. Racism is a public health crisis, and if we start with this specific acknowledgement, we can truly tackle these issues head on. This isn’t to say our school is racist, it is not, but we must acknowledge that racism is prevalent and significant.
I’ve been working with a group called Belonging and Equity at LT that helped research ways to make the school more inclusive and to reduce the achievement gap. During my time researching, I read about several resolutions around racial equity that were written in multiple school districts in our state.
District 204 school board has an opportunity to collaboratively draft a resolution that puts our administration to work on items such as integrating more racially/culturally relevant content into curriculum, gathering complaints about racial bias and sharing them with the board, gathering data on hiring and promotional trends among racial groups for staff, and much more. These efforts will serve as a foundation to begin repairing the lack of belonging among our marginalized groups.
They say that a rising tide lifts all boats. I’m confident that specific measures to lift up our minority students will lift up all students. Increased integration of ethnicities and races in our classrooms gives more perspective for everyone. Hiring more diverse staff over time statistically improves learning for all students. In short, there’s a way to help all students at LT – specifically and boldly address racial inequity at the school.
Ricardo Martinez is a candidate running for a seat on the Lyons Township High School District 204 Board of Education.