How is District 86 leaning into the issue of racial


Hinsdale High School District 86 recently launched a Culture and Equity Leadership Team to gather stories from people of color in the community to promote a more inclusive environment that celebrates equity and diversity.

For team member Ayesha Truman, student support coordinator at Hinsdale South, the move is an important step.

"As a Black woman, this team has provided a space where my personal and professional lives have converged. It has also given me the opportunity to be a voice for and represent the needs of black students and families," she said.

Fellow team member Bill Walsh, principal at Hinsdale Central, said he has deepened his awareness of advantages conferred on him as white male.

"Developing racial consciousness and empathizing with others who are different from me are areas in which I am seeking to grow both personally and professionally," he said. "I have learned that this growth can only truly be achieved if we are willing and able to step out of our respective comfort zones and engage in a genuine and authentic dialogue about race."

Testimonies he's heard have stirred his desire to be an agent of change and not complacency.

"While we have taken some positive steps toward improving racial and cultural equity and inclusion in our district, the current state of race in our schools, community, country and society reflect how much more we have left to do," he said.

Truman believes the district can be a trailblazer in the movement.

"Our district has a proud and storied tradition of excellence," she said. "In my opinion, we should view racial equity in the same vein - as an area in which we lead boldly and strive for excellence."

Walsh agreed, saying the district's existing strategic vision demands it.

"We seek to empower our students to pursue their ideal future," Walsh commented. "In order to achieve this goal, it is imperative that we create a learning environment in our schools that is welcoming for all and provides a safe space where students and staff can be their true selves."

Developing a more culturally-inclusive curriculum and closing the racial gap in academic outcomes are some concrete measurables, Walsh said.

Communicating that everyone is valued is also key, Truman added.

"I hope that all of our students are able to feel like our schools are truly theirs and reflect their culture. I also hope that all of our students are made to feel confident and empowered and receive the support and encouragement they need to achieve the goals and realize the dreams of those who came before them," she said, adding that CELT already has altered her outlook.

"I feel more empowered and am able to lead boldly. I also have a team of people I can lean on for support and encouragement," Truman remarked.

How can the community help? Share one's story (see Page 19 for details), engage in conversations about diversity with an open mind, and one more element.

"Lead with love," she said.

- by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean