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District misses diversity goals

BY LILY ABROMEIT | APRIL 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa City School District failed to achieve its diversity goals for faculty and staff this year.

According to the 2014-14 Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Plan, hiring goals were not met for employing minority teaching or support staff, as well as minority administration this year.

“The goals we set in our plan are based on experience but also relevant to what the state averages are and designed to keep the issue in front of us,” said Ross Wilburn, the School District director of equity.

The district aimed to hire more minority teaching staff. The goal was set at 5 percent, but the district fell short at 4.24 percent. Employment for minority support staff was aimed at achieving 12.5 percent, but the district only showed a 10.59 percent result in the area. The goal for hiring minority administrators was established at 6 percent, with the district only reaching 1.89 percent.

Wilburn said he isn’t concerned about the lower numbers.

“It’s reflective of a concern locally, statewide, and nationally,” he said. “It’s important that we set the goal, and that it challenges … and increases the diversity of our staff pool.”

City High Principal John Bacon said it is “extremely” important that goals be set for increasing the number of minority personnel filling the positions.

Bacon said he has seen firsthand the kind of benefits having minority leaders in the school can bring.
“Any caring, hardworking adult can become a wonderful role model for a teenager, but I think that it’s certainly important that for our minority students, our faculty is representative of our student body,” he said.

Nate Frese, a West High language-arts teacher who has taught in the district for 15 years, said he thinks the recent figures are an accurate reflection of the district.

“It would be nice to have a little more diversity,” he said. “For those minority students who are looking for that connection they can make to find that role model, it would be better if they can look around the building.”

However, Frese stressed that reaching this goal should not outweigh talent.

“If you’re just hiring people to do it, to just fill a quota, that seems counterproductive to me in the big scheme of things,” he said.

Wilburn said one way to avoid this is by having a larger application pool, something accomplishable by working with the University of Iowa College of Education.

Susan Lagos Lavenz, associate dean for teacher education and student services at the UI education school, said the program works hard to encourage minority students to continue into the education field, through recruitment processes and continuous support in the school.

“The richest learning environment is the one that has diverse members,” she said. “It challenges you to think of other perspectives, it prepares you more realistically in the world in which you are going to live and work, it brings a growth and additional perspective to your thinking, and I believe it makes you a stronger community member.”


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