School Equity Plans Moving Forward


In early June, District 128 Superintendent Dr. Prentiss Lea, LHS principal Dr. Tom Koulentes and Vernon Hills High School principal Dr. Jon Guillaume sent an email to all District 128 students regarding the murder of George Floyd, listing ways that both schools were going to become more equitable environments, along with some steps they were going to take to eliminate racism and prejudice in the schools. 

The immediate steps to be taken that were listed in the email were that the superintendent would coordinate and support the district and build equity work; principals would work with their schools’ equity coordinators to better assist the staff in personal learning or for curriculum review; LHS and VHHS Equity Leadership Teams would touch base to identify immediate actions to support students and staff; and D128 principals would work to develop check-in meetings with students.  

They also encouraged students and parents to reach out with any thoughts, questions or concerns. 

Three months later, in an email interview, Dr. Koulentes followed up on this summer email, saying, “The majority of the concerns [we heard] fell into two areas: concerns about our curriculum and concerns about social media.” Specifically, the students who reached out have asked for the possibility of including race, racism and other social issues into the curriculum more; they also said they wanted to learn how to engage in a more respectful dialogue while on social media.

While LHS has mentioned many ways in which it plans on and has started combating racism and instilling equity, there are still concerns among some students. 

“I feel like LHS is a pretty safe place for people who are underrepresented, but at the same time, I don’t think that it’s been genuine enough yet and I believe it can be, but honestly this seems kind of performative to me right now,” said senior Melissa Ji. “I’m not going to be happy until everyone feels safe, and right now not everyone feels safe here.”

According to Dr. Koulentes, the current focus of the school’s work is to connect staff to professional learning experiences about race, gender, LGBTQ issues, equity and creating a culturally relevant curriculum. He also mentioned the creation of new clubs, such as an equity club, and student learning programs coming soon in hopes of engaging students in these discussions. He stated that the school’s Equity Leadership Team meets monthly with the goal of building and developing greater equity and inclusion across LHS.

Mrs. Anne Singleton, the equity coordinator at LHS, expressed that another main focus is student outreach. While encouraging students to use their voices, she also explained what she’s working on: “Learning more [as teachers] and figuring out how to make our classrooms more culturally responsive.” 

Sarah Belabbes, a senior, said it can be hard for minorities at LHS to speak out and use their voice. 

“Having the school kind of reach out to people separately and reach out to minority groups at our school shows that the school cares, and sometimes that’s what people need to start going [to] use their own voice,” she said. “They just need to know that they’re wanted there, [that] they feel like they are needed, and that’s hard to get at LHS.” 

The check-in meetings with students that were mentioned in the summer email have started and will continue to take place throughout the fall via Zoom or Google Meet for now. During these sessions, Dr. Koulentes meets with students individually, in small groups or through clubs. LHS teachers will also be asked to have discussions about equity in their classrooms. 

The main goal for the future, as expressed by Dr. Koulentes and Mrs. Singleton, is to have an Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, which usually takes one to two years to develop, they said. This will be carried out by the Equity Leadership Team, made up of teachers, administrators, teacher aides and office assistants. The plan will consist of ways the school can be more equitable and how that will be accomplished. Although there was supposed to be a student equity group created in April, Covid-19 put these plans on hold. Now that the school routine is more stable, Mrs. Singleton hopes to start this group in the near future. 

Anyone who wants to meet with me about that, I would love to talk to them and hear their thoughts,” she said. 

Along with meeting with Mrs. Singleton about the club, she also encouraged students to talk to her about anything regarding equity, “no matter what your identity is because there are all different aspects of identity that have experienced not being in the center.”