Let's Talk About Race

Dear Ravenswood Families and Friends,

 We have a race problem, Ravenswood. I want to spend this month's message talking about it, and I can't make this one short or quick. But first some context:

Last week we held our final screening and discussion of "America to Me." The docuseries, which was filmed at Oak Park Riverforest High School, explores how race, bias and equity intersect at a progressive school that takes pride in its academic achievement and commitment to equity. As we watched through a variety of clips and scenes from the 10-episode series, I became increasingly uncomfortable with how similar the stories, explanations and experiences were to Ravenswood.  

Over my six years at Ravenswood, I've had a variety of families, students and staff of color come to me with moments and stories where they perceived they were treated differently or unfairly by a parent, staff member or student based on their race. This has happened many times. As a principal, I look for patterns. I get plenty of "one off" situations where someone was upset with someone else about a situation, but that was the end of it. These things typically work themselves out. But when I see the same concern raised again and again and again, it's a problem we have to face as a community.  

By now, you've all heard about the unprecedented academic gains our district and school have made in recent years. We are outperforming similar districts and, in doing so, helping to change the trajectory of our city. But, despite these accomplishments, Chicago remains one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation. It is not an exaggeration to say that for many Chicago students today, the zip code they live in is still highly predictive of their future opportunities and successes. Our achievement as a district is still clearly marked by massive gaps in achievement by race. If you spend any time looking at our own Ravenswood achievement data, you'll see the same grim trend. 

 This summer I shared via Twitter that "we have a moral imperative to cultivate classrooms and schools where we engage race, racism and equity head on" and that "as a mixed race school, we have an opportunity and moral imperative to be a school in which every child, grade, and subgroup achieve at high levels academically and socially." I still believe this, and I am asking you to walk forward with us into this work. If this is confusing or you don't see a problem, or you want to get involved in making a change, I encourage you to take advantage of future upcoming resources including:

·        "Dear Ravenswood", a new feature in our weekly newsletter focused on providing questions and resources related to racial equity, diversity and integration in our school community

·       Parent-led book clubs (see admin if you're interested in leading one)

·       A regular, informal coffee hour to discuss topics and resources related to race and equity

Equity means excellence for all. Humanity has a race problem, and we are not exempt, Ravenswood. By engaging in this work toward excellence for all through the lens of race, we are engaging in the work of a better future for our students and modeling the courageous learning and community we hope for our children. Thanks for believing in a better future for all our students, Ravenswood. Let's know better as we do better, people.  #RacismMustFall #RavenswoodRocks

Best,

Mr. Manaen

Nate Manaen