CHAMPAIGN — Those concerned about social justice in the Champaign schools will get a chance weigh in next week.
The school district's first social justice committee meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday in the board room at the Mellon Administrative Center, 703 S. New St., C.
Laura Taylor, the school district's assistant superintendent for achievement and student services, will facilitate the meeting and lead the committee.
She's done similar work as former principal of Urbana High School and when teaching administrators at the University of Illinois, she said.
The first couple of meetings, which are scheduled monthly throughout the school year, will be spent learning about social justice and talking about norms and expectations so participants feel like they can share freely.
"We're going to get into what are called courageous conversations," Taylor said. They'll talk about the definition of ideology and who in society creates "what we consider to be the norm and how this often denies individuals access to opportunities," Taylor said.
The committee will also discuss access and what social justice means and what it will look like in the Champaign schools, Taylor said.
You can see the meeting schedule at http://www.champaignschools.org/files/2012-08-28_Social_Justice_Committee.pdf . The district's website also has a Spanish version of the flier.
Taylor said it's possible that some of the meeting locations may change to include more people, depending on what the committee decides.
She said she'll be leading the process and isn't sure what the resulting path will be when the committee finishes its work in May.
Taylor said she's confident "we will have a common definition and an operational framework," by the time the process is done, she said.
One goal is to improve the school district's ability to support students and what they're learning "through a lens of social justice," according to the committee's flier.
Some of the conversations at the committee meetings might make some people uncomfortable, Taylor said.
"It's worth the risk because it's so important," Taylor said.
Superintendent Judy Wiegand said the committee is important because it will help the school district serve people better.
"One of our greatest assets in Unit 4 is our diversity, and the social justice committee will provide an open forum to discuss how we can better serve our students, families and staff," Wiegand said. "Dr. Taylor spearheaded a similar program during her time at Urbana, and we are fortunate that she is bringing that experience and passion to the table here at Unit 4."