D86 hire looks to chart course to equity

Patrice Payne wants Hinsdale High School District 86 to be a "lighthouse" when it comes to creating a inclusive educational community.

"How we approach diversity will be so consequential of how we succeed as a district," Payne said.

On May 13, board members approved Payne's appointment as the district's first director of instructional equity.

"I know that this is a wonderful environment for me to join forces with so I can equip our scholars to be able to collaborate, create and connect with this ever-changing world that we live in," she said.

Expressing admiration for District 86's tradition of excellence, Payne said a shifting demographic landscape requires the district to respond in a constructive way.

"Our schools are increasingly seeing a trend of students with backgrounds that are identifying as ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse," she said. "Our teachers and leaders are not necessarily representative of that growing trend."

Superintendent Tammy Prentiss said Payne's hiring was a important step in the district's effort to become a more welcoming place for all.

"This position was created, in part, to support the work and goals of our equity statement, which include designing and implementing a culturally responsive curriculum, helping our faculty develop culturally responsive teaching practices, and cultivating the social and emotional skills in our students so that they can grow into engaged global citizens," Prentiss said in a statement. "Dr. Payne's impressive background and qualifications, as well as her knowledge, leadership and passion for education, will enable us to advance this work, achieve these goals and help all of our students down the path toward their ideal future."

For the last two years, Payne has worked as the multi-tiered systems of support coordinator in Rich Township High School District 227 in Matteson, directing academic planning and curriculum development, helping implement student interventions and supports, and coordinating a districtwide approach to discipline based on restorative practices and social and emotional learning. She also has served as principal at Frazier Preparatory Academy in Chicago and Crenshaw Arts-Technology Charter High School in Los Angeles. Before that, she was a high school English teacher.

Payne said one of her priorities is to help not just staff but also parents and district residents pursue the promotion of "a learning environment where students feel seen, acknowledged, celebrated and empowered."

Demystifying terms like "equity" and "diversity" will also be a focus.

"I want to make sure we're all aware of what the intention is to ensure there are opportunities for us to all be on the same page," she remarked. "Culture matters in education, and we need to see diverse backgrounds as assets to the learning proves so we can move forward with an asset-based lens."

She is encouraged by the community's positive response to the district's strategic plan and equity statement and the work of the Culture and Equity Leadership Team.

"It is that strong belief in education and tireless commitment to our students that I will strive to build upon in my role as the director of instructional equity," Payne said.

Payne embraces pioneering the position.

"Starting something form the ground up is an unusual opportunity, but it's a great opportunity to make sure the vision fits our school community," she related. "I'm really interested in learning to see exactly where the areas of need are and how we can serve."

Payne earned a bachelor's degree in English for secondary education from Pepperdine University, a master's in education administration from Governors State University and a doctorate in education leadership from the University of Southern California.

She thanked the board and Prentiss for selecting her for this role.

"I look forward to working with them, as well as our faculty, staff and families, to help ensure that we continue to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of every student we serve," she said. "It will be a proud moment for our district to look back at those decisions that provided greater opportunities for equity, diversity and inclusion."

Payne received a one-year contract with an annual salary of $115,000 that will begin on July 1.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean