Several of the members of the new District Equity Leadership Team at Riverside-Brookfield High School updated the school board on its work at their meeting April 25. | BOB SKOLNIK

The push to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at Riverside-Brookfield High School is moving into a higher gear. The school has established a 26-person District Equity Leadership Team (DELT) to lead the effort. 

The team is divided into what is called “five strands of systemic equity.” Equity was added as a component to the school district’s mission statement in April 2021. The strands are systems, teaching and learning, student voice, climate and culture, professional learning and family and community agency.

RBHS has been getting assistance and training in its equity push by consultant Dr. Ivette Dubiel of the firm Systemic Educational Equity. RBHS has paid the firm $16,000 since first engaging them in February 2021. 

All the payments came from grant funding. Dubiel is providing systematic equity training to the RBHS staff, which has been ongoing throughout the school year.

Some of the 26 members of the DELT appeared before the school board at its April 25 meeting to give a brief overview of its work so far. Most of the work will be done next year. The school will develop an equity action plan which is defined as “an accountability framework to identify, measure and sustain actions to advance equity.”

One important step is to define the term equity for RBHS. That goal is supposed to be completed by December 2023.

“We are very early in the process,” said Superintendent Kevin Skinkis.

The school is surveying students about the culture and climate at RBHS and this month will create a student equity leadership team. 

The student body at RBHS has become much more diverse in the last decade with a large increase in the number of Hispanic students. As of 2022 49.9% of RBHS students were white, 39.3% were Hispanic, 5.4% Black, 3.1% mixed race and 2% Asian.

The faculty remains overwhelmingly white, with 87.5% of teachers being white, according to the 2022 Illinois School Report Card. About 8% of certified staff are Hispanic and about 2% are Black. 

Although diversifying the staff is a goal, Assistant Superintendent Kristin Smetana, who is a member of DELT, cautioned that faculty openings at RBHS are few and that it will take time to diversify the staff, because there is typically not much turnover.

“We don’t have a lot of opportunity to do this,” said Smetana noting that the school hasn’t hired a new world languages teacher in nine years.

But the administration is taking steps to increase the diversity of new hires. It aims to create a recruitment video to encourage diverse candidates to apply and equity questions are asked of all applicants for teaching positions. The goal is to hire equity-minded staff.

The goal of the teaching and learning strand is “to intentionally embed equity-driven pedagogy in curriculum, resources, instructional approaches, use and consideration of assessments, and academic programming for the purpose of advancing equity among all students,” according to a report presented to the Board of Education last month.

Members of the district equity leadership team will visit Fenton High School, Vernon Hills High School and the Glenbard and Niles high schools to see how they address diversity and equity issues.

School board member Ryan VenHorst, a teacher at Oak Park and River Forest High School, told the members of DELT they should expect exhausting but rewarding work ahead.

“You are about to embark on incredibly tough, incredibly rewarding work,” VenHorst said. “Expect a lot of push back, expect a lot of enthusiasm and expect a lot of non-progress to happen and keep your head down and keep going.”