• Emily Berry

Why We Can't Stop Now

Updated: Mar 11



Part 1 of 2

Hands raised in a classroom full of teens


During my time as a board member, it has been my honor to support our work around educational justice and equity. The hours spent on this work as a board member have been some of the most challenging and most rewarding of my life. It is a large part of why I am seeking reelection: I can’t wait to see how the hard work our teachers and administrators are putting in translates into better opportunities for all of our students.


You may have heard of our partner in our work, a group called Integrated, Comprehensive Systems for Equity, often just referred to as “ICS.” If you’re not familiar with it, you can read more here. We’re in our second year of what will be several working with ICS. Right on schedule, we are hitting worry and resistance from some corners of our community.


I want to be clear: it is always fair to bring questions to me, other board members and school leaders. I would never suggest otherwise. I am happy to talk about why this work with ICS is important to me, about my understanding of how it will help us meet our goals and fulfill our mission. But let’s ground the conversation: this work isn’t optional. It’s happening. We are also past the point of vetting ICS. They are the experts our educational leaders selected to work with, and we can’t turn back now.


I support our work with them without hesitation or qualification. I believe the work our teachers have done under the ICS framework is already impacting our students - including my kids - positively.


Wanting to understand more about our work is 100% understandable and commendable. The district has hardly kept our work with ICS a secret. That hasn’t kept anxiety and fear from spreading. I think much of the resistance we will encounter as we work on equity will be fueled by the fear of losing something. In some cases it will be veiled as innocent “wonder” and “concern” that is really about obstruction and opposition.


I think this is predictable and a sad result of a tendency for those of us with huge amounts of privilege to want to protect our privilege, and pass it on to our kids. That includes our children and our entire families being part of the privileged norm in our schools.


Of course I know not everyone in Shorewood is in this group, so I’ll speak for myself, and know I am describing many: I’m a white woman; I am married; English is my native language; I own my home. I am able-bodied and neurotypical. I work full-time. I have a college degree, and have a six-figure household income. If we carried privilege like charms, I’d have a whole bracelet full.


As a kid and a young woman, school always worked for me. I was a teacher’s pet and thrived in almost every classroom I ever entered. I thought it was just because I worked hard. It never occurred to me that my school was basically designed to serve me - and later, my own children.


If, like me, you succeeded in school. Maybe you thought that moving to Shorewood would ensure your kids would thrive in public school, and anything that seems to threaten that deal feels scary, I know.

 

Whether our power and position, our comfort and our belonging is based on race, education, wealth, or some other identity, there are a lot of things common across our community that give us power in our culture. We with power don’t want to look greedy, but we resist and feel afraid at the idea of giving up any bit of what we’ve been accustomed to having.


Is this you? Are you nervous about what your child might lose if we adopt a new framework for learning across our district that is built around equity? Are you worried that your community or the schools you love will change and no longer create high-achieving scholars?


I invite you to reflect instead on how much there is to gain - for your child, for all of our students, for our school district and our village. We could be a district worthy of our reputation for progressive, forward-thinking schools, where academic excellence is matched by a commitment to justice. I believe our work with ICS for Equity is the way to get there. No one needs to lose - education and opportunity is not a pie we’re splitting. It is possible for everyone to feel as deeply at home in school, as supported and uplifted - not just a lucky few.


Like I would guess you do, I want every student to reach their maximum potential. I want to know that every student has the opportunity to excel, to grow, to feel loved and nurtured in our schools.


I have been exposed to as much of the ICS training and literature as any parent who isn’t a teacher in our district. I am as familiar with our district’s challenges as you would expect a school board member to be. I am here to tell you, I am unabashedly, fully and enthusiastically committed to supporting our work under the ICS framework.

 

There is so much to gain if we leave behind a system built to serve a historic norm that is now a minority in our public schools: male, wealthy, Christian, English-speaking, white, heterosexual, cisgendered, able-bodied, neurotypical. It’s not that someone meeting all of those descriptions isn’t wonderfully at home in our district. We will serve them well, too. It’s that we see how damaging it has been to run a school system built to serve them as the default, the norm, the “on track,” the “Tier 1,” and to marginalize everyone else, to label them as needing an intervention to fix them, rather than to ask why our system isn’t built for them, too.


This, for me, is what our ICS work is about - transforming our schools so that they serve everyone well, label no one as "broken," and deliver opportunities for every student to grow and excel.


Part 2 coming soon.


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