Champaign school district equality committee sets goals

On Nov. 16, the Board of Education for Champaign School District 4 met to vote on the members of the Education Equity Excellence, or EEE, committee.

Out of 32 applicants, the board chose 10 community members in addition to two representatives from the Parent Teacher Association, or PTA.

When the members accepted their positions on the committee, they received a statement from the Board regarding the group’s objective.

“The purpose of the Education Equity Excellence Committee is to foster a climate of equal opportunity, educational excellence and success for all students,” according to the statement. “Additionally, the committee will foster two-way communication and collaboration between the district and its stakeholders.”

Although it has not yet held its first meeting, the committee’s newly elected members said they have high expectations and hopes for the success of the group in addressing the needs of minority, underperforming. special education and gifted students.

Jamar Brown, committee member and human relations commissioner for the city of Champaign, said his intentions for participating are the same as those of the Board of Education.

“This is exactly what my goals are; open and transparent communication with the community and educational excellence for all students,” he said.

Committee member Ondine Gross, psychologist for Centennial High School in Champaign, said she is proud to be part of this effort.

“My thoughts on how the group will start working toward our goals is by not being afraid to tackle difficult subjects with honest dialogue, respectful listening and effective problem-solving,” Gross said.

Many of the committee members are parents of school District 4 students, and said they saw this as an important factor in their decision to join the committee.

“I would like to learn more about the placement process so I can possibly help other parents understand how to receive the appropriate placements for their children, and to continue advocating for my own children,” said committee member Annette Jones, director of trust services at the University of Illinois Foundation.

Karl Radnitzer, Millikin University professor and member of the committee, said he would like to help further the progress made through the 2002 consent decree, a legal action that discussed the district’s overrepresentation of minorities in special education programs and the low graduation rates of minorities.

“I am very interested in working with stakeholders to improve organizations,” he said. “Unit 4 has been under the microscope for quite a long time and the school district and the stakeholders want to continue the good progress they have made as well as make improvements in the future.”

Nancy Hoetker is the PTA representative on the committee. She said communication is the most important role the committee should play.

“Communication will be key to addressing issues; both communications from the constituent communities about issues they have identified, and then back again from the committee and the district administration and school board as to how these needs are being addressed.”