Interfaith Housing Center Hosts Public Forum on North Shore Integration

Officials from the North Shore housing organization push for integrated communities.

What do three high school principals, officials from various political organizations in the Chicago area and a professor at John Marshall Law School have in common?

Each of them attended a public forum on diversity in North Shore public schools and fair housing Sunday at . The forum was hosted by Winnetka-based Interfaith Housing Center, which defines its aims on its website as “educating, advocating, and organizing to uphold just and integrated communities for fair housing.”

The forum, "Inclusive Community, Inclusive Schools," fostered debate on public education and its relationship to diversity, opportunity and housing with guest speakers from Northbrook, Evanston and Skokie.


Gail Schechter, executive director for the center, opened the afternoon of discussion by highlighting her organization's staff and a recent legal settlement, concerning two Evanston landlords who were accused of systematically refusing tenants who weren't Northwestern University students. Nearly a year ago, the center tested the complaint of a NU student, who was concerned her lease forbid subletting to anyone other than students from the university, especially students with children. After filing in federal court its own complaint, based on discrimination against families with children, the center settled a “profoundly important case,” Schechter said.

“...it sends the message that Evanston can no longer perpetuate a dual-rental market,” she added. “This opens three-bedroom units near Northwestern—which is also near public transportation and shopping—to families."

For the center, equal housing rights for families is part of an even bigger picture.

Before passing the microphone to a panel of educators and administrators, Schechter responded to recent criticism in the media. No one voiced opposition during the forum.

“I have news for anyone who wants to run us out of town ... we're not going anywhere,” she said of her center, which provided a buffet of grapes, cheeses and Wisconsin apple cider, along with brochures and donation envelopes for guests to take home. “We're staying right here.”

Many from the audience applauded Schechter's remarks and later asked questions concerning student diversity in high schools, a topic of the forum that afternoon.

Multiculturalism in the halls

With a population of approximately 5,000 students — in which four out of 10 students in attendance were born outside of the U.S. and six out of 10 students speak a language other than English — Niles North High School in Skokie is no stranger to diversity.

“I feel, if we teach our kids how to talk to one another about diversity — what it means to be them and the experiences that they've felt,” said Ryan McTague, principal of the high school, “and they bring that into the classroom, they're educating my teachers [and] the administrators.”

As the center has argued, diversity in schools is largely a factor of zip code: which school district you live and pay property taxes. In a recent blog post for Patch, Schechter cites a 2009 study by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice. "As wonderful as some teachers and schools are," the study said, "most cannot eliminate inequalities that have their roots outside their doors and that influence events within them.”

Read more:

In Niles and Evanston, the focus isn't so much on fostering a diverse student population but improving communication between the students they have.

For McTague as well as fellow forum participant Jeffrey D. Brown, Jr., principal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Laboratory Magnet School in Evanston, initiatives such as greater emphasis on multicultural literature, clubs and storytelling are a big part of the process.

“If [we were] just handing over a book and a pencil it would be easy,” McTague said. “But we are dealing with socioeconomic concerns.”

“When you have a diverse environment, it's more than just saying, 'We're diverse,'” he added. “How are you working to make sure that every student is successful?”

Breaking the Mold?

Liliana Fargo, vice president of the organization, Latinos in Skokie, argued after the forum that success depends on a comparative approach to education.

“My personal view is that not everybody has the same kinds of skills,” Fargo said, “so we have to embrace that.”

In her experience as an educator, she added, economic prosperity in an increasingly global world boils down to promoting the individual strengths of diverse cultures. Education in the U.S. doesn't embrace that view, she said.

“Nations should focus on the kind of production [in which individual cultures] are more efficient, and that will work for the well-being of everybody.”

Erin Murphy, principal of Field Middle School in Northbrook/Glenview District 31, pushed for education with one foot through the globalized door and the other grounded in leadership, communication and conflict resolution.

“When our staff is doing research on what our mission statement should be and what our district plan should be,” Murphy said, “the question always comes back to, 'What kind of world do all of us live in?'”

For her young students, that world gets smaller by the day.

“Kids are not going to stay in their hometowns anymore,” she added. “It's always apparent that as you're teaching kids, we really need to focus on this global scale.”

'Bringing It All Back Home'

So how would intergration, if necessary, affect a suburb like Winnetka?

In its 2010 census, the village showed a decrease in population but varying increases in Hispanic, African American and Asian populations.

Despite these numbers, Ann Airey, a board director for the center, argued for an observation that Winnetka is growing more “homogeneous” and that people are only sticking around for the public schools.

“...We're going to be people of around the same age, [a suburb] with school-age kids,” Airey said, “because people move here for the kids and then leave as soon as their kids are out of school.”

As they talked with people after the forum, officials from the center agreed with Airey, who cited property taxes as a factor that drives people out.

“People move in here and they squeeze their income, so that they can afford to live here,” Airey said. “We're becoming the same age, the same race and the same everything — and it's boring and uninteresting.”

Moreover, she discussed a hot topic in Winnetka's affordable housing debate: 30 coach houses that haven't been rented in the village because of an “antiquated law, which states, “after six months, you can't rent them anymore," she said.

“Why can't people rent the coach houses?” she asked, acknowledging the Winnetka Home Owners Association (WHOA), which does not support more affordable housing efforts in the village. “Even if half of them were rented, there would be 15 more affordable places for people like police and fire [officers], teachers and divorcing moms with kids to live in.”

“I don't understand how anyone could have a problem with that, but they seem to.”

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margaret posner November 01, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Mcquet I've seen you before and heard you at meetings. Socialism is scary and disturbing - so back at you. Remember forced charity is not charity it's socialism.
blackwidow November 01, 2011 at 02:53 AM
Margaret: - One of Interfaith's roles is to help to enforce laws that have been on the books for over 40 years, basic laws against discrimination, segregation and prejudice. Are you saying that you are in favor of these things? Do you hate or do you respect the police officer who pulls you over for speeding in your Honda? (btw, it's Aston Martin, not Astin) - Although you pretend to hate it, I don't think you understand socialism in the way you throw it about. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism - It isn't forced charity, it's people helping their neighbors in need. How can you argue with that?
Sully November 01, 2011 at 03:06 AM
There is probably much Margaret doesn't understand. Compassion being right up there. If I had to guess, I'd say she'd probably deny folks in Alabama and Missouri who lost everything in the tornados of last spring may need help from the government. That would be "socialism".
Greenwood November 01, 2011 at 03:42 AM
I would have loved to remain in the home we had in Chicago. It was in a vibrant, exceptionally diverse area, a stone's throw from the lake, and 15-minute bus ride from the office. However, though my son tested in the top 5 percent for the CPS gifted programs/magnet schools, we were told he was virtually ineligible because he was white. I guess you could say we moved to the North Shore to escape discrimination.
Ann Airey November 01, 2011 at 12:50 PM
Margaret: "these people" are your neighbors. People who already live in Winnetka. And letting those who want to rent their coach houses do so is not socialism under any logical definition. To quote one of my favorite movies: "you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Ann Airey November 01, 2011 at 12:52 PM
At last - someone commenting on the actual subject of the article, diversity and integration in schools. Or is that "socialism" too?
margaret posner November 01, 2011 at 12:56 PM
I am in favor of helping out when people really need it. Don't be an ass.Tornados and living in the North Shore are two different things you silly person. In the case of Affordable Housing people don't have to live here. There are plenty of neighborhoods in every price range. Let me say it again forced charity is socialism. I did not realize this was a liberal website. I can't stand liberals so don't worry I will not be coming back.
Ann Airey November 01, 2011 at 01:21 PM
Margaret, please enlighten us. How is letting people rent their coach houses, if they choose and at whatever price they wish, "forced charity"? How is the requirement that landlords and commercial property owners maintain a safe and healthful environment "forced charity"?
Jennifer Mcquet November 01, 2011 at 03:37 PM
It's a classic e-snipe move and definitely a class act to call someone an ass -- then run away -- when they assail your logic. I disagree that this is a liberal web site. I think there's a pretty good balance of postings from different viewpoints - far left, far right, middle. Greenwood - interesting! Thanks for bringing back to the topic.
John Miller November 01, 2011 at 05:52 PM
JM is correct -- the web site per se is not liberal, Only most of those carrying on this thread are liberals, some über!!!
WHOA November 02, 2011 at 02:50 AM
Carry Buck Msgr. Lyons was a dear dear friend of mine. I was the one who took him to the hospital the day a high fever from encephalitis (probably from a mosquito) put him over the edge - never to return. We were together that day with his relatives from Ireland. Msgr. would turn over in his grave if he knew Gail used something he said out of context - to promote her social agendas. A new low Gail!
WHOA November 03, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Carry Buck Now Gail is quoting Jesus. My, she has so many friends in high places who support her Affordable Housing agenda! Wow.
Gail Schechter November 03, 2011 at 01:56 PM
This statement from Msgr. Lyons is not out of context. Indeed, he was one of the founders of the Interfaith Housing Center. Here is his full statement, also available on our web site: http://www.interfaithhousingcenter.org/images/stories/pdfs/NSIHC_StatementofFaith.pdf "In his encyclical letter 'Peace on Earth' Pope John XXIII says that every man has the right to life, to bodily integrity and to the means which are necessary and suitable for the proper development of life. These means are primarily clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and finally the necessary social services. "The Synod of bishops in Rome has declared that it is the solemn obligation of the Church to speak out against injustices of any kind. "In our concern about proper housing for the old, the handicapped, the poor, we need be inspired by the simple words of Jesus: 'Whatsoever you do for the least of my brethren, you do for me.'"
Winnetka November 03, 2011 at 01:57 PM
Gail: Your comment: "a diverse community is a "healthy" community. You are very right about Winnetka. We appreciate the compliment and noticing that we ARE a community of diverse backgrounds, philosophies, education, political affiliation, ethnicity, religions, blended families, kids, no kids, older people, younger people, philanthropists, volunteers, doctors, teachers, social workers, executives, entrepreneurs, small business owners, stay at home moms AND dads, single parents, widows, clergy, divorcees...I could go on and on. I am proud to be a member of this community of vibrant, generous and neighborly folks of ALL WALKS of LIFE.
Pat Craig November 03, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Whoa, You're repeating yourself. you're repeating yourself. ... and apparently this thread will continue to be beaten until there is nothing else running on Patch. Enough talking past each other already... all the rest of us get it... you disagree with each other. The "pro-P.C." crowd and the "anti-P.C." crowd have been beating this long-dead horse long enough. ENOUGH!
Ann Airey November 03, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Seriously Carry? You can't follow what Gail posted? Can you not see that Gail is quoting your "dear dear friend" Msgr Lyons, a strong founding supporter of the Interfaith Housing Center. It was he who was quoting Jesus, and is most certainly turning over in his grave as he watches you spread hate and fear of Gail and Interfaith.
Alex Windsor November 03, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Seriously! I think you've ALL made your points and ceased being of any interest or relevance to others as you've sunk to just sniping at each other. Exchange each others' emails if you want, but please leave the rest of us out of your continued bickering. Patch Editors, start doing your job and try to monitor this nonsense, OK!
Winnetka November 04, 2011 at 09:57 PM
Ann, face it, the Affordable Housing mafia got schooled by the Winnetka voters. It's time to move on and stop the personal attacks on your fellow Winnetkans: Carry et al. Maybe I misread your organization's name: Is it Winnetka is Neighborly or Winnetka is not so Neighborly? I'm thinking it's the latter.
Sully November 04, 2011 at 11:07 PM
That's right Ann. If Winnetka says it, it must be true! He/she knows all! The trick is to not let things drive you too crazy, right?
Alex Windsor November 05, 2011 at 12:43 PM
What really drives my crazy are these topics that all too quickly lose their focus and choke off other discussions, like invasive weeds in a garden. Patch editors better get good at pruning before this site gets completely overgrown!
Sully November 25, 2011 at 04:11 PM
Oh, is that what that was? Not a personal attack that is really none of your business anyway, but just a simple question regarding the initiative? I guess you were just misunderstood, huh?
Winnetka too November 25, 2011 at 08:16 PM
You are confusing me with the person who put up the link. I just looked at the account on the link and was concerned about what I read there.
Sully November 25, 2011 at 08:48 PM
My apologies then.
Sully November 26, 2011 at 12:54 AM
I feel so much better now!
nsmom November 26, 2011 at 12:56 AM
Ah, Ms. Posner. If only you had a clue about what affordable housing really is, or how to spell Aston Martin. Or how to engage in polite, adult dialogue without attacking people in public.
WHOA November 27, 2011 at 11:53 PM
CARRY BUCK - WHOA Gail says: “Why can't people rent the coach houses?” she asked, acknowledging the Winnetka Home Owners Association (WHOA), which does not support more affordable housing efforts in the village. “Even if half of them were rented, there would be 15 more affordable places for people like police and fire [officers], teachers and divorcing moms with kids to live in.” “I don't understand how anyone could have a problem with that, but they seem to.” Hi Gail. There has been no language per coach houses submitted to the Village Council. How could WHOA "seem to have a problem with that?" Please...please cut the false rhetoric. WHOA has no position on coach houses and you know it.
Robert K. Elder November 28, 2011 at 05:27 PM
A reminder, folks, to please keep things civil. Our Acceptable Use Policy states that a Patch user may not post or transmit content that is “defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive.” Posts that approach or cross this line will be taken down. I would like to add: Please don't be rude or engage in personal attacks. This is a good discussion, let's keep it going. Thank you, Robert K. Elder, Patch Regional Editor
WHOA November 28, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Carry Buck - WHOA The above article begins with a question: What do three high school principals, officials from various political organizations in the Chicago area and a professor at John Marshall Law School have in common? The answer is: What they all have in common is - none of those people are from Winnetka.
blackwidow November 30, 2011 at 09:37 PM
? Almost 3 weeks goes by w/o a single post. Then "Winnetka Too" went so far out of line that all her comments had to be removed. Now Buck joins in again for more Gail-baiting? It IS indeed POSITIVE news to see that Buck's made the turn-around!!!! Because on June 5th, Buck/WHOA mass e-mailed these mildly threatening/negative suggestions about the Village somehow taking rights/forcing power: QUOTE: § Change the law that prohibits upgrades and modest increases in size or bulk of coach houses and eliminate the requirement that coach houses be continuously occupied or fall out of permitted use. *ON THE SURFACE this seems like a no-brainer. § Reclassify coach houses from "non-conforming use" to either "permitted use" or "conditional use." *This sentence complicates the issue depending upon what "permitted use" and/or "conditional use" means. WHOA did a FOIA request for the definitions, and frankly we can't figure out what they say. If a conditional use determines that coach houses will be affordable housing units - beware! The Village will have control over who can use your coach house. § The recommendations also talk about "special use" whatever that will mean. They say they want to estabish an expedited special use process for the creation of new accessory housing units. Does anyone out there want to build a small affordable housing unit on your property? " UNQUOTE Mr. Elder, I agree with your comments and thank the Patch for the public forum.
blackwidow November 30, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Mrs. Buck, also, the self-published WHOA manifesto (printed April 2011...after much begging for $$) completely undermines your statement that WHOA doesn't have a stance on coach houses. Your published letter is too long to retype here....but here are the tastiest bits: "There is a small coach house on my property......it's totally charming....they want to legislate who can stay there and how much rent should be paid*.........THEY will have control over my coach house forevermore -- so it is available for their government "guests"....I say - this is America...Get off my porch!" Do you really believe that? Do you really fear our village wants strangers and "gov guests" to live with you? To me, it makes no sense. The original statements/letters and/or the sudden turn-around.


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