Jennifer Neubauer of Lake Forest shares a letter that she sent to Lake Forest High School District 115 regarding the Board of Education’s search for a new principal.
To: Reese Marcusson ([email protected]), John Powers ([email protected]), Ted Moorman ([email protected]), Dave Schreiber ([email protected]), Lise Eliot ([email protected]), Diana Kreiling ([email protected]) and David Lane ([email protected])
Dear Lake Forest High School Board of Education Members: I have received word that Superintendent Michael Simeck is going to recommend hiring an inexperienced person with controversial and offensive views on academic tracking to take the principal job at LFHS. That person is Oak Park-River Forest High School Assistant Principal Chala Holland.
First, she is inexperienced: my research reveals Chala Holland has never been a principal, has only six years of administrative experience in academically mediocre high schools, and is only thirteen years out of student teaching. She is a self-described “descendent of slaves” whose professional focus at Evanston Township High School and OPRF has been “racial equity” and not subjects relevant to LFHS students and their academic achievement.
Second, her views are offensive: Holland deems AP and Honors classes and “academic tracking” the equivalent of “Jim Crow” laws of the segregationist south as tracking disproportionately harms (according to her) blacks and Latinos. She has expounded on her blog (before it was taken down this past weekend after her candidacy was leaked) that even racially diverse schools are “at their core” still “beacons of racial inequities disguised by a false notion of meritocracy and the reality of white privilege and internalized racism.” If that’s what she thinks of “white privilege” and white “internalized racism” in racially diverse schools, how could she possibly view LFHS, with a population that is 90% white and 1.2% black in a friendlier light?
Despite her extraordinary lack of professional qualifications for service to the LFHS community and her controversial views on tracking and “white” academic achievement, as expressed more fully below in her own blog, Simeck appears poised to recommend her for the over $200,000 a year job as LFHS principal.
Shockingly, shortly after many received news of Simeck’s intention to recommend Holland’s hiring, most of her public comments, her blog, Twitter, and even the web pages of her academic consulting company, HECG, (www.hollanded.com) were immediately disabled, making it nearly impossible to investigate her views on education, her professional qualifications (or lack thereof), ideological background and whether they disqualify her for the top job at LFHS.
Fortunately, and despite her attempts to sanitize her record, web archiving services still reveal a fraction of Holland’s thoughts on her HECG website. These are telling. Under the tab labeled “Our Thoughts, What We Believe”– “Academic Tracking – The New (Educational) Jim Crow”, she states:
“The same structures that segregated students in the 1960’s, segregates them today. A system of academic tracking is embedded in the ways that courses are structured and aligned in many integrated high schools across the United States. . . While the 1960’s boasted the physical segregation of spaces occupies by white and non-white students, the 2000’s boast integrated buildings yet segregated classrooms. . . The racial integration of schools did not dismantle the systemic racism inherent in the schooling system… In other words, it’s not a matter of “if racism” is operating in the schools, it’s a matter of knowing that it is there and working constantly uncover it and dismantle it. On the surface, many racially integrated schools seem like beacons of racial and economic diversity and integration. But, at their core are beacons of racial inequities disguised by a false notion of meritocracy and the reality of white privilege and internalized racism.”(Emphasis supplied).
She continues with her controversial and unsubstantiated theory on “tracking”—
“Tracking originated out of a need for differentiated labor. Black, Latino and working class students have historically been assigned to the lower academic tracks in disproportionate numbers. Race has everything to do with this. Tracking has been used to produce different outcomes and experiences for students so much so, the differences in results have been racially assigned and normalized. Students in lower tracks are subject to lower-level instructional materials and practices and do not have access to higher-level competencies. Additionally, they have less access to college-prep materials.
All students are affected by systems of tracking but not all students are affected the same. Race and tracking are inextricably connected. If they were not, the national racial predictability in the achievement and academic levels in schools would not exist.”
Holland alleges that “Black, Latino and working class students” are intentionally “assigned” to lower tracks and that “[r]ace has everything to do with this.” She alleges tracking is intentionally “used” to stack the deck against these minorities so they do not learn as much or well as “whites” nor have access to “college-prep” materials. She concludes that if there were no tracking, “national racial predictability in the achievement and academic levels in schools would not exist”—in other words, blacks and whites would succeed at proportionately equal levels. She makes these claims contrary to a wealth of credible social science and without citation to any supporting evidence in an apparent attempt to shore up her truly offensive argument that black achievement is intentionally hampered by “the reality of white privilege and internalized racism”—starting with “tracking.”
One struggles to understand how Holland’s full-throated embrace of critical race theory and the “internalized [white] racism” embodied in tracking, her administrative inexperience and her complete lack of service in a non-urban high school setting qualify her to run LFHS, whose faculty, student body and parents embrace tracking as not only educationally appropriate, but racially benign and essential to the college admission to which many of these students aspire.
Moreover, according to a June 21, 2011 article in the Oak Park Journal, while neither of Holland’s parents were in education—her father was a community organizer and her mother mainly focused on raising Holland—Holland chose to go into education because “[a]s a student growing up, she felt ‘mis-educated’, and didn’t feel ‘validated’ by the curriculum.” Exactly what curriculum choices would Holland impose on LFHS students, given her published notions of endemic white racism? Her speedy dismantling of her own website and Twitter account, coming on the heels of her public candidacy hardly reassure.
Superintendent Simeck not only owes the community an explanation on this startling and completely incoherent recommendation, he owes much more. Several months ago, the LFHS administration asked for input from the community on the type of principal it should hire. Parents and other stakeholders received several emails reminding them of their need to complete the survey and many took the time to thoughtfully comply. To my knowledge, the results of the survey were never made public. Simeck owes the community the results of those surveys and the names and CVs of all other candidates for this post. Why? Because it stretches credulity to the breaking point to assume that any LFHS stakeholder demanded a young administrator with no leadership experience in a school like LFHS who was also bent on rooting out “white privilege” and the “racism inherent in the schooling system” as their new principal. Indeed: Simeck owes the LFHS community an apology for the survey ploy many of us took seriously: clearly, the community had no meaningful input on Simeck’s choice.
No parent in his or her right mind would hire someone as ill-suited to embrace, collaborate with and guide the LFHS students, faculty or parents as Chala Holland. How could the LFHS community ever be served by a candidate who views “tracking” as simply more proof of our “white privilege and internalized racism”?
Indeed, who could conceive of hiring a person who has profoundly and unjustly vilified every stakeholder—faculty, parents, administration, students and community— by her own, unequivocal belief on her own website: “[I]t’s not a matter of ‘if racism’ is operating in the schools, it’s a matter of knowing that it is there.”
Very truly yours,
CC. Superintendent Simeck ([email protected])
Sources used for the facts in this letter, also available in screen shots, are:
 Holland did her student teaching in Evanston Township High School and was hired full-time in 2002, teaching history and social science. In a 2008 article in evanstonnow.com, Holland is noted saying “she had a compelling reason for becoming a teacher” as she was the “descendent of slaves.” At Evanston, she also created professional development activities for faculty around racial equity issues. She moved up to administration at Evanston in 2009 and when director of academic support and summer school principal there, she was hired by Oak Park-River Forest High School in a then newly-created post as assistant principal for instruction in 2011. At OPRF her focus on racial issues continued. OPRF Board of Education minutes at that a March 2013 meeting reflect her extensive presentation on racial equity at OPRF to be achieved by “disaggregation” and “plan for systemic transformation and ensuring that all of the work of the district is examined through a racial equity lens…” Those minutes continue with Holland’s aspirations: “OPRFHS must be willing to try things, apologize, and celebrate successes as well as recognizing how one’s own racial being is playing into this. It is a messy process. . .”
 Other resources offered approvingly on her HECG website and captured with the help of web archiving services include “Whiteness As Property”, a polemic by a law professor arguing that “distortions [discrimination on the basis of race?] in affirmative action doctrine can only be addressed by confronting and exposing the property interest in whiteness and by acknowledging the distributive justification and function of affirmative action as central to that task (emphasis supplied).” TRANSLATION: Because of legal “setbacks” noting the illegitimacy of affirmative action (i.e. judging by race), we need a new theory: mere “whiteness” has attained the status of a “property” interest in law such that only reverse discrimination via “affirmative action” can correct this unfairness. Only lawyers with a lot of time on their hands will ever read, and dismiss, this. Holland’s own “Racial Equity RTL” offered on her website has seemingly been removed from the web. Other resources offered approvingly on her website are titled: “Toward a Race Theory of Education” and “Whose Culture Has Capital” a self-described “critical race theory” approach to education which “ involves a commitment to develop schools that acknowledge the multiple strengths of Communities of Color in order to serve a larger purpose of struggle toward social and racial justice.”