Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.
― Richard Shaull, in the forward to Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire
The Skin We Are In
To represent and actualize our mission, NCS is intentionally led across racial difference. Our staff is, by design, diverse in race, gender, ethnicity, and LGBTQIA identities. Our community embodies a wide array of religious and spiritual traditions, languages, and professional experiences. Our team includes staff who bring a wide variety of expertise to the organization, from data strategy to events management; former principals, counselors, and teachers; former Chicago Public School (CPS) students and current CPS families.
We are deeply rooted in Chicago, a city with a violent and racist legacy that continues today. This history and current conditions create a racially and economically segregated city as well as rich and vibrant neighborhoods and a big city with a small town feel. Chicago’s struggle to improve its public schools has galvanized its civic, philanthropic, nonprofit, and academic communities. We also exist in the legacy of a university that was partially endowed by the sale of enslaved people of African descent. We acknowledge that we operate in a system of higher education that was designed to perpetuate stratification by race and class.
We at NCS bring hundreds of years of collective school improvement experience. We have deep experience in leading change outside of formal authority as a partner to schools. We work in our sphere of influence, which is accompanied by the advantages of integrity and strong relationships and the disadvantage of working outside of our control. We collectively operate from a moral imperative to pay the educational debt to Black and Latinx communities.
The power of transformation comes from working together across racial difference towards a shared vision. Through our collective efforts, all of our humanity can be reclaimed and rebuilt. Based on the organizational identity - the skin we are in - and our collective experiences, NCS is committed to co-creating school environments that honor our young people’s genius and works towards creating transformed student experiences. NCS is committed to leading from an understanding that transformation happens from the inside out. Before we ask others to engage in transformational experiences, we must first have engaged in that experience. NCS supports schools that see Black and Latinx communities as assets rather than a rationale to lower expectations. Race is salient and must be a focused lens to push towards transformation. We honor intersectionality, because we all have to be able to bring our whole selves to the work. We intentionally isolate race, because ignoring institutional and systemic racism remains the greatest force preventing schools and districts from serving all of their community members well. By serving our least-served students exceptionally, all students will benefit. NCS will not tolerate having people’s (students and adults) humanities devalued – no matter their racial, cultural, linguistic, gender, sexual, and religious identities, including a person’s physical, learning, or mental disability/ies.
We commit ourselves to the work of courageously examining race, identity, power, and privilege within our own organization and in partnership with schools. We challenge injustices and build the relationships and capacity that can tolerate/contain/engage the work. We recognize that transformation is not solely the result of interrupting or dismantling inequities that are the result of people or systems. Therefore, as a moral imperative, NCS seeks opportunities to co-construct new ways of doing and being. We align with school communities, districts, organizations, and institutions that honor and courageously uplift similar values in both their beliefs and practices. When our convictions and/or values are challenged, NCS is committed to calling our colleagues into a generative dialogue that will support the success of our least-served students. We fight for education communities that liberate and heal.
Updated September 2019