iLEAD’s Leadership Team Launches Equity Summer Series
For years, but especially since the protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, educators have been challenged to respond with clear actions to address racial injustices and inequities in society. iLEAD Schools, which emphasize social-emotional and project-based learning, have worked toward educational and societal equity since the organization’s founding. But recent events inspired the formation of the iLEAD Equity Task Force.
This ongoing effort, which is a focus of this year’s professional learning at Camp Make and throughout the school year, kicked off recently with the iLEAD leadership team’s Equity Summer Series.
The facilitator of the series is Micki Singer, who has over 30 years of broad-based experience addressing educational equity, adaptive change and conditions for learning. A senior educational consultant with Collaborative Learning Solutions, an organization committed to challenging the status quo in education, Singer has facilitated numerous professional learning experiences centered on compassionate dialogue, recognizing implicit bias and dismantling structural racism.
Singer said that each iLEAD leadership team participant enters this experience with their own personal why. “As an anti-bias, anti-racist educational equity consultant, I seek to hold space and provide support for leaders to reflect deeply on their own lived experience, biases, positionality and discomfort,” Singer said. “This is facilitated while also examining the iLEAD organization itself – with its unique history, stories, practices and challenges – in the context of systemic equity.”
According to Dawn Evenson, the founder and CEO of iLEAD California, the team acknowledges the need for a deeper understanding of equity, institutional biases and racism. She said the summer series has challenged everyone to look at the historical roots, causes and modern-day perpetuation of racism and discrimination that must be addressed systemically. “Our leaders are working hard now to facilitate these conversations with their staff, parents, learners and communities,” Evenson said.
Singer said she has deep faith in the ability of the iLEAD leadership team to take transformative action. “These leaders are working to enhance their personal readiness to successfully engage issues of difference in life and practice, internalize a shared understanding and commitment to equity, and take personal responsibility for overcoming bias,” Singer said. “They will continue their journey of dismantling structural inequities to drive change and learn concrete and actionable equity strategies to ensure the success of all learners.”
iLEAD leadership team members are responding positively to the initial experience. Director of Maker Outreach Matt Watson said he is thrilled to see iLEAD commit to leveling the playing field for all learners, staff and families. Additionally, Watson is appreciative of this particular forum for providing a safe space to examine individual and systemic biases and to dismantle them to better serve all learners. “I have been so inspired by the safe environment,” Watson said. “We follow structured protocols that allow us to thoroughly examine and remove any preferential or discriminatory systems in our structures.”
Other leadership team members agree. Erin Jones, director of iLEAD Online, said, “I appreciate that I work for an organization that recognizes the importance of taking the time to reflect on how we address equity and then pushes us to do better.”
This is just the beginning of transformative work, according to Singer. Following two leadership team cohorts completing the summer series, focused equity work will continue with all staff equity training through Camp Make, stakeholder collaboration with the task force to examine data and tackle disproportionality, the formation of learner action groups and, finally, the formation of communities of practice involving parents and families.
Singer said that this entire year’s focus on equity will produce not only deep reflection but new practices and pedagogies within the iLEAD community. “Equity is a robust system and dynamic process that reinforces and replicates equitable ideas, power, resources, strategies, conditions, habits and outcomes,” Singer said. “This current work is a jumping-off point for transformative action, which will ripple through the entire iLEAD organization, instilling a shared commitment to individual, collective and systemic change.”
iLEAD’s interest in deeper learning and real change for all stakeholders aligns with Singer’s dynamic approach. “I have said many times during the sessions that iLEAD is ahead of the curve in terms of its commitment to equity and the utilization of practices to engender it,” Singer said. “But when given reflective space and emotional support to explore equity as part of a team, leaders can, together, dig deeper to drive transformative change.”
The Summer Equity Series and the new Equity Task Force are part of iLEAD’s ongoing work to respond to the needs of communities and learners. “This work matches up with our vision of making the world a better place,” Evenson said. “Our society as a whole has hit a tipping point. It’s time for all of us to stand up and do what’s right.”
Referring to iLEAD’s familiar refrain of “Free to Think, Inspired to Lead,” Singer said this goal is a means of creating inclusive, liberatory learning environments in which all students can experience a sense of belonging and agency.
“This is not just a slogan. It is the core of iLEAD’s commitment to equity,” Singer said.