Action Ridge General Meeting
June 8, 2022
Meeting commenced at 7:00pm.
Nan introduced Dr. Ben Collins.
Featured Speaker: Dr. Ben Collins, Principal of Maine South High School
Dr. Collins discussed the ways in which Maine South, along with the other Maine Township high schools have been working to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the school.
The work has been challenging but invigorating at Maine South. There are approximately 2,500 students representing 1,900 families, so many different backgrounds and viewpoints co-exist.
Maine South is fairly diverse culturally. There are many students whose families have recently come from Eastern Europe, some from Ukraine. Many students are first generation. There are also many students who come from families who have been in Park Ridge for generations.
The school has a multi-pronged plan to help all students thrive.
Acknowledge, recognize, and celebrate different cultural backgrounds
• The school observes a diversity of holidays, celebrate customs.
• Departments weave discovery about different people, places, and events in the course curriculum.
Foster individual student identity
• The school holds listening sessions organized around student identities, but anyone can come.
• This was the fourth year of this practice and additional listening sessions have been added over the years.
• There is time set aside each month in students’ schedules to work directly with students on lessons about acceptance and inclusion.
• One month, the students watched a video about microaggressions and discussed it.
• Next year, the school will build on these lessons for sophomores, juniors and seniors. At the end of four years there will be leveled curriculum for each year at the school. This not only improves the climate at Maine South, but prepares students to enter the world beyond high school where an understanding of different people’s experiences will be vital.
• The school loosened the dress code to allow for religious expression as well as individual student identity.
• Disciplinary measures have moved away from punitive consequences and moved toward restorative justice.
• Changes in the grading process consider equity.
• The school holds training for teachers about how to address instances of bigotry.
• Maine South is involved with SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity), an organization that helps train educators to promote principles of social justice in their schools.
• Maine South is also working with the primary schools that feed into the high school (sending schools) on equity initiatives.
• Each department and team has book studies that help them better understand issues of equity.
District 207 and Maine South have district- and building-level equity teams made up of staff. Next year, Maine South is considering building a student equity leadership team.
Maine South has a chapter of SOAR (Student Organized Against Racism).
Why isn’t there a ‘no hate’ banner at Maine South, but there are at Maine East and Maine West?
Maine South has a different student-designed banner. The idea of the “We believe…” banner was a source of strong differences across the school community and a distraction from the work that was taking place inside the school.
How does Maine South attract and retain a diverse teaching staff?
They have done intentional recruiting and more people of color have applied. Changing the overall diversity of the staff will be slow since they don’t hire that many new teachers at a time.
They hold listening sessions for teachers belonging to different identity groups, as they do with the students. The feedback has generally been that interactions with the students and staff have been good. Parents, however, sometimes treat teachers of color differently. The school endured harassment from parents last year about many different issues; they will not tolerate it going forward.
How do you explain the diversity, equity, and inclusion work to parents?
The administration listens to the concerns of parents and genuinely is attuned to understanding where the school has fallen short. Most people who initially push back against DEI initiatives understand, if not support it, after a meeting with administration.
How does Maine South address the danger presented by the potential for school shootings?
The key is to make every student feel like they are a part of the school. They have to watch for humor that turns into teasing which ends up in bullying.
The school has strong safety protocols in place. Mental health has never been worse among high school students. Suicide remains a major concern.
Do students talk to their parents about equity?
Some do and some don’t.
Amy Bartucci explained the mission of a group led by parents and community members called Maine South Community for Equity. The group aims to support the equity initiatives within the school. Anyone interested can contact Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nan reported that Jason Ivy, a Chicago-based musician who was also profiled in the WTTW Firsthand: Segregation series, may join Action Ridge at the July 13 meeting.
Environmental – Tim Milburn
Park Ridge is developing ordinances that are making it easier to have solar panels.
There is planning underway for a Solar Tour on September 25. Currently, 70 homes in Park Ridge have solar panels, up from just seven, five years ago.
Park Ridge may also take up EV-readiness, including the availability of electric vehicle charging stations. Tim is the project manager for this effort in this area.
There are legislative initiatives in Springfield. Some may come up in November, including equity and the environment and shutting down coal power plants.
Policing and Criminal Justice – Alissa Goldwasser and Kristen Olson
A reminder that Action Ridge will host a coffee conversation with the Park Ridge Police Department on June 14 at 2pm at Off The Wall. The theme of the meeting will be the intersection of mental health and policing. Geri Silic, the Department’s social worker, will be on hand to answer questions.
Affordable Housing – Kristin Berg and Nan Parson
The comprehensive plan is moving slowly; there isn’t a specific timeline. The effort will start with City Council, not Planning & Zoning.
There is a survey on the city website asking about what is important in the community. Several people in attendance had questions about what it is for and whether it can capture interest in affordable housing.
Voting and Elections – Chris Parson
Sunday is the last opportunity to register to vote for the general primary elections on June 28. Early voting begins on Monday. The next two years could be the most important that this country has ever had to elect leaders. Consult the League of Women Voters’ https://illinoisvoterguide.org/.
Book Discussion Group – Karen Banks-Lubicz
The group will discuss See No Stranger by Valarie Kaur. Copies of the book are in the reader service’s section of the library. The discussion will take place on June 22 via Zoom.
Gun Violence Prevention – Noreen Gayford and Joan Bludeau Lavelle
Nationwide March for our Lives events are taking place on June 11. Chicago-area marchers can take part at the Federal building on Dearborn or in Palatine on Quentin Road. Both marches begin at noon.
HR7910 would Increase the age to 21 to buy an automatic rifle, prevent gun trafficking, regulate ghost guns, mandate safe storage, and close the bump stock loophole.
There are efforts in other parts of the country to pass legislation that would arm school personnel. This effort hasn’t been strong in Illinois, but it could gain momentum.
Activists should be ready to contact schools/districts in opposition.
Meeting ended at 8:25pm.
Minutes submitted by Alissa Goldwasser and Nan Parson.