Diversity policy questioned

BY LILY ABROMEIT | MAY 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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Henri Harper and other members of the Black Voices Project are frustrated with the Iowa City School District.

With the School Board in the midst of a redistricting plan, the group is calling for better measures in addressing diversity in the policy.

“We talk about diversity, we talk about inclusion, and I think at this point, there is no such thing,” Harper said. “My issue about this is, if you really want to have diversity inclusion, you have to listen to different peoples’ opinions and other people from different backgrounds.”

The diversity policy’s focus is on better distributing socioeconomic classes across the district. It is based on the percentage of students participating in the free- and reduced-lunch program. To achieve these goals, the School Board has put a plan in place to redistrict the area.

Harper, a parent in the district, said he doesn’t feel as though an adequate discussion is occurring.

“I would like for [the board] to really consider what the real outcomes could be and to have an honest discussion … and to really want to come to some solutions that work together,” he said.

At the meeting Tuesday, the School Board is set to discuss the final maps for the redistricting plan as well as receive input from the community on the policy.

“It’s new, it’s different, and sometimes unknown, and that makes it a little scary,” Superintendent Steve Murley said. “The diversity policy has come up with some people in favor of it and some people not. I presume there is going to be some feedback for the board.”

Board member Chris Lynch said he expects to hear feedback from education officials.

“It’s how to find balance while supporting neighborhood schools and minimizing disruptions,” he said. “I think the administration owes us its recommendations, and I guess we’ll find out.”

The Black Voices Project is trying to combat what the members believe is a lack of communication.

Harper said he feels as though different opinions and voices are not being taken into account.

“Once you have a different opinion and a different idea, then you’re not listened to, so I don’t see any inclusion that way,” he said. “I think their mind is already made up, so whatever input we have, or don’t have, isn’t going one way or another.”

Murley said he believes the current process is the best way to achieve success, but he thinks the confusion comes from the fact that above all, mandates for the policy must be met first before the board can address other concerns.

“We want to make sure everyone remains engaged and part of the conversation from start to finish, because we need to hear from as many people as we can,” he said.

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