Spirit of Maryville 2019: Charlotte Ijei, ’14
Charlotte Ijei, EdD, is director of pupil personnel & diversity for the Parkway School District in St. Louis County. Her passion for moving the district toward educational equity has been both personal and professional. As a Parkway parent, she experienced her own children’s struggles to fit in at a predominately white school in the early 1980s. Joining Parkway North High School as a college counselor in 1996, she found a more diverse student population, but one still segregated by classrooms and teacher expectations. Students of color earning A’s were not encouraged to take honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
Changing the mindset among counselors, teachers and administrators was a challenge. But under Ijei’s leadership, Parkway has implemented a “Whole School Justice” program, requiring faculty and staff to participate in intensive social justice training. As a result, African American students are better represented in AP and honors classes, and suspensions have decreased dramatically. Parkway also won a 2018 National School Board Association diversity award and is narrowing achievement and opportunity gaps. For Ijei, who brought her “social justice lens” to Maryville’s doctoral program, it’s about more than changing minds; it’s about “change of heart.”