DeKALB – When Maurice McDavid was in eighth grade, his older brother, Henry, gave him some words of warning for surviving freshman year at DeKalb High School: The Barbs football team will be terrible, and race will begin to matter.
Born and raised in DeKalb, McDavid, 31, admits that while Barbs football has turned into a powerhouse, there’s work to be done in terms of diversity in DeKalb School District 428, in which he’s the high school’s dean of students. His wife, Samantha McDavid, is running for a District 428 board seat, and they have three children: a second-grader and kindergartner at Tyler Elementary and a preschooler.
Maurice McDavid went through District 428 and did not see a black man at the head of a classroom until he was 21. Now back in the halls he roamed as a student, Maurice McDavid is leading efforts to increase instructor diversity in the district, with the help of a state-led initiative called the Diverse and Learner-Ready Teacher Network.
“In the hallway of the old high school building, there was a poster that said ‘Why can’t we all be friends?’ and someone had written on that ‘Because you’re all animals,’ ” Maurice McDavid said, recalling his sophomore year at DHS. “And there was a cheerleader tryouts poster, and it said ‘No N-words allowed.’ ”
Maurice McDavid is one of 22 educators across the state participating in this new initiative led by the Illinois State Board of Education. The network will meet for the first time March 22 in Springfield, and will begin the process of identifying initiatives and coordinating statewide efforts to increase teacher diversity and promote cultural competency instruction.
According to ISBE, only
15 percent of teachers in Illinois public schools are teachers of color, compared with the ratio of students of color, which comes to 52 percent. The Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents released new data from a survey this week, showing an “educator shortage crisis” in Illinois. Among 527 districts that responded to the survey, 20 percent of all positions remained unfilled or filled by an unqualified professional.
The network goes hand-in-hand with initiatives District 428 officials are undertaking through the Diversity Plan unveiled in the fall. Maurice McDavid said the district also is expanding where it’s posting open jobs and from what institutions the district is recruiting.
“I think it’s fantastic that [McDavid] is representing the district,” District 428 Superintendent Jamie Craven said. “It’s going to end up being extremely beneficial for us, having him have a voice at the table.”
When Maurice McDavid graduated from DHS in 2006, he left his hometown to attend Knox College in Galesburg, where in 2010 he earned a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and minors in Spanish and history.
Maurice McDavid’s work with the network is only one aspect of diversity education and cultural competency he hopes to achieve through his role in the district.
“I get a chance to come to work every day and be an example to young black men and young black women,” he said. “But also to young white and Latino men and women, that this is what a black man looks like.
“I do not take lightly this idea that hopefully I can be a positive image for a kid who might otherwise not have seen a positive image of a black male,” he continued. “And that’s where it really hit me: This imagery is not just for our black kids. It’s important for the young lady who’s only seen ‘Cops,’ or watched hip-hop or the NBA – this idea that somehow we are not master’s-holding professionals as black men.”
Maurice McDavid came back to the district in 2010 and worked as an instructional assistant at the high school. He then taught eighth-grade social studies and language arts, as well as freshman world geography during summer school for five years. In July 2016, he began his dean role at the high school while finishing up his master’s in education at Northern Illinois University.
Through it all, Maurice McDavid’s humility and passion for students shines through, which he credits, in part, to his strong faith.
“I believe in redemption,” he said. “I believe that one and nothing is ever too far gone. My passion in education is the idea of restorative justice: Rather than just sending a kid home on suspension, we’re looking at what harm was done, how do we repair that harm, and what do we learn from that experience?”