Iowa City Stories

May 13, 2010

Diversity: Iowa City and the University of Iowa

Filed under: IC Stories: Avery, Diversity, Iowa City Stories — Tags: , , — a1os4wrds @ 12:05 pm

The Iowa City community has been facing some huge issues concerning diversity.
First the idea of the high schools district lines being redrawn, and secondly a new Chief Diversity officer at the University of Iowa.
The Chief Diversity Officer will be the figure head of diversity at the University and something that all candidates agree on is the fact that they cannot solve Iowa’s issue with diversity by themselves.
“Don’t hire me and expect wipe your hands and say now this is your problem…cause it won’t work.” Said candidate Terryl Ross Director for Community and Diversity.
A big part of solving the diversity issue in Iowa City as well as the University of Iowa is having the community behind the issue.
Katherine Betts Assistant Director of Diversity Programs of Cultural Centers believes that the community plays a pivotal role in increasing diversity here at Iowa.
“The community must be accepting of diverse students…and I think that’s something that many students don’t feel in the community. I mean just look at the issues of our high schools.”
With the Iowa City community and the University of Iowa so closely connected if diversity is failing in one it is most likely failing in the other.
Rene Rocha a professor at the University of Iowa thinks that in order to change the diversity in the Iowa City community, kids must be introduced at a young age to different cultures.
Rocha believes, “that many students come from Iowa with this lack of cultural acceptance simply because they are not exposed to it in their hometowns.”
In order for the diversity problem to be solved officials believe that diverse students that come into the high schools or even the University must feel that they have some type of cohesiveness with one another as well as their environment.
Nicole Nisly the Interim Chief Diversity Officer believes this to be an important part of any successful diversity program.
“If students come in and don’t feel they have someone there to rely on, they aren’t going to stick around,” said Nisly “there has to be some level of acceptance and cohesiveness between the students and the community.”
The question then becomes who will become an example of a successful diversity program first the University of Iowa or the Iowa City high schools?
Nisly said, “It’s going to take a lot of time, nothing is going to happen overnight. The state is 90 percent white, its going to take a lot patience and persistence on everyone’s part.
And this is something Chief Diversity officer candidate Ross believes in also.
“We have to be prepared for the long run, sure there are going to be bumps in the road and the true test will be where we stand after we hit those bumps.”

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April 1, 2010

Iowa City Draws new Lines for High School

Iowa City has been going through some changes within the last couple of years.

There has been an influx of people from Chicago moving into Iowa City, specifically the Southeast Side.

This has caused lots of turbulence within the community and has even started some racially fueled debates.

A product of these events was the segregation of local high school, West High and City High. One high school being known to house almost all the minorities and the other being for the majority or whites.

The School District has now been trying to redistrict the schools in order to desegregate the community.
This movement has been met with much protest within the community.

Many parents fear for the well being of their children along with an increase in violence.

At a recent protest parents said, “The quality of education would drop if the schools were to be rezoned.”

University Professor Rene Rocha lives in one of the neighborhoods that is most likely to be rezoned. “My neighbors are pretty upset with this whole situation,” said Renae “they ask me what I think but I don’t think they realize that I am a minority myself.”

Mr. Rocha is of Latino decent and thinks that the ordinance would be a great way for cultures to meet and build racial tolerance at an earlier age.

Other neighborhoods do not think this is such a good idea.

The current school board made up of seven members has the ability to vote on several different scenarios.

The School Board has involved teachers in their redistricting committee but has had a hard time meeting to discuss any further action.

After trying to meet for several weeks the committee finally had March 24 to discuss the the redistricting of the High Schools.

The committee came up with some criteria in which the redistricting should follow:

  • Demographic Considerations- this is the ability to have children from different socioeconomic backgrounds at different schools.
  • Fiscal Considerations-this is the ability for the redistricting to be within the school districts budget.
  • Neighborhood Schools and Neighborhoods Intact-students should attend schools that are closest to them but the lines should not split neighborhoods.
  • Building Utilization-the lines should maximize student attendance without the danger of exceeding capacity in the future.

These four ideas are the building blocks of not only the committee’s concerns but also the Iowa City community.

Something that Dr. Bruggs, member of the committee, emphasized was the ability for this plan to eventually encompass all grades.

The committee has already arranged 5 scenarios for the Elementary, Junior High and High Schools.

Each one of the plans illustrates a different way to intergrate the schools but one important topic for the Iowa City community is the building of a third high school in North Liberty.

Parents of the North Liberty area have been pleading for a third high school for years and this may be their time to get it.

Due to the fact that North Liberty has been overcrowded for some time some officials thought it was about time to finally start building another high school there, said Tuyet Dorau a member of the redistricting committee.

Another alarming fact that Sarah Swisher another board member brought up was that West High would soon be at capacity making huge problems for Iowa City.

With the population continuing to grow board members not only have to deal with demographic issues but also the feasibility and ability for application of each scenario.

Something that all board members are ready to cope with is that fact that not everyone will be satisfied with whatever option they take said Pattie Fields president of the board.

Until the whole Iowa City community comes to a compromise on a scenario nothing can be done and nothing will be.

So for now the community must cope with these problems, and find a resolution that is both fair to all of its constituents but also a move in the right direction for future of Iowa City.

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