OPRF hires first equity director

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OPRF hires first equity director

OPRF's first equity director, LeVar Ammons.

OPRF's first equity director, LeVar Ammons.

Karin Sullivan

OPRF's first equity director, LeVar Ammons.

Karin Sullivan

Karin Sullivan

OPRF's first equity director, LeVar Ammons.

Calvin Roe, Staffer

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As OPRF’s first director of equity and student success, LeVar Ammons brings a new perspective and vision to race that extends to various aspects of the school.

Before his hiring in late April, Ammons was a counselor at Willowbrook High School. Ammons ran a black American student group that eventually lead to his leadership role in providing equity action plans for superintendents across DuPage County.

“This position’s specific goal is to advance equity,” explained Roxana Sanders, the assistant superintendent of human resources. For his first order of business , Ammons is tasked with developing the 12 specific procedures for the racial equity policy. “Whether it’s resource allocation, discipline disparity, professional development, there are people who lead in those areas, I will be working with those people to then outline what the procedures for each one of these policy items should look like.”

For the rest of the first semester, the procedures will be developed and finalized to then be implemented in the second semester.

When discussing the achievement gap, the disparity between white and black students’ academic success, Ammons said he believes test scores shouldn’t be the only factor determining a student’s worth. “On an individual basis, you have to understand the student as a whole,” Ammons said. “That means conversations with the family, the student, previous teachers, so we have a complete picture and not just a snapshot.”

When asked about the root causes of inequalities in the classroom, Ammons points to relationships.  “Relationships precede learning. From my own research, I have found that students that are more so attached to their school environment are more likely to engage in the academic process.”

With this in mind, Ammons  said he hopes to make relationships an overarching theme in the procedures for the equity plan and his work at OPRF in general. “At the foundation, (student success) is relational. Teachers, administrators, educators in general, have to be able to create meaningful relationships across the differences,” he said.

On an Institute Day and during teacher training, the same need for relationships was discussed. “We spoke to the culture of warmth and belonging that we are trying to foster and develop here, making sure every student feels welcomed,” he said.

Despite the nearly unanimous approval of his hiring by the board of education, Ammons acknowledges some people don’t see the benefit of focusing on equity. “The research shows that a more diverse class will lend itself to a higher level of achievement for all students,” he said. “It’s not a matter of taking something away, but adding something to a class, which is a diverse and broader level of perspectives.”

Ammons also addresses the proposed “detracking” plan to overhaul the honors system for freshmen. “This is not about watering down our curriculum, the classes are going to be of the same caliber. It’s just a matter of opening the door and providing access to all students.”

Ammons calls his planning “a cyclical process of reflection and action toward justice. We have an opportunity in education to produce a more socially conscious and aware population of people into the world.”

Photo courtesy of Karin Sullivan