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Redistricting discussion moves to Wood Elementary

BY NORA HEATON | FEBRUARY 23, 2010 7:30 AM

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Iowa City School District officials heard from a different crowd Monday night.

Parents and community members gathered at Wood Elementary, 1930 Lakeside Drive, to discuss boundary-change scenarios with district officials and redistricting committee members. But much of the discussion centered on misconceptions about the Southeast Side and schools in the area.

School officials had hoped moving the forum to a spot along the public bus route would help draw Wood parents who have been unable to attend previous forums.

School Superintendent Lane Plugge said he heard positive feedback from parents who said the location was helpful, and officials saw an increase in the number of area parents who were able to attend.

And those parents wanted to make sure stereotypes such as “poor children” and “unavailable parents” were destroyed.

Sue Freeman of Neighborhood Centers addressed the crowd at the beginning of the night, citing studies that show “poor students” learn better when in a classroom with “non-poor” children.

But “poor” is a generalization many parents resent.

“That’s horrible,” said Royceann Porter, who helped found Youth Empowered to Serve, an initiative to involve kids on the Southeast Side in community service. “And what’s poor?”

Tamara Batie, who has two sons at Wood and a daughter at Southeast Junior High, 2501 Bradford St., feels district officials have been targeting kids on free- and reduced-lunch programs as having parents who “aren’t available” — which, she said, is simply not the case.

“I take great exception to these sweeping generalizations,” said Batie, and she stays up “until midnight” between working and helping her children with homework.

Molly Severson, who teaches kindergarten at Wood, said she worries people are mistaken in their concerns about sending their kids to a school with students from lower-income families.

The district has held three community forums to discuss redistricting scenarios with RSP & Associates, the firm hired to advise on boundary changes.

But the sentiments expressed Monday night were different from those at any previous meeting.

“We heard totally different things and heard another important perspective,” said Terry Dervrich, a redistricting committee member who facilitated discussion at past community forums. “All these people are advocates for their kids.”

The actual redistricting proposals were also on the agenda. Porter said she was skeptical about other schools being equipped to handle the needs of incoming students, should the scenario come to pass.

“You say you all are prepared. You better be prepared, because change is coming,” Porter told district officials at the meeting. “If you make this change, you best be ready.”


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