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District Takes On Diversity Partnership

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - When it comes to public schools, America has come a long way -- and has a long way to go, said West Wind Education Policy president Circe Stumbo.

"Our education systems really do generate different outcomes for different kinds of kids," Stumbo said.

It's why Diversity Focus executive director Chad Simmons, along with Stumbo, stood up at the Iowa City Community School District board meeting on Tuesday night to ask for a partnership.

The idea is to "help school systems imagine a system that allows each and every student to thive," Stumbo said.

That means creating strategic, sustainable plans to address racial disparities in school districts. That includes things like hiring more people of color, and keeping money coming in for diversity programs, even after grants end.

The district administration is on board.

"We have a very diversified community, and our school system school reflect that," said chief human resources officer Chace Ramey.

The school board also voted to accept the proposed partnership, but there's a hitch: the school district already has a diversity policy, one that has received a lot of attention and criticism, both publicly and legally.

There aren't specifics yet, but this initiative could alter that policy, Simmons said.

"We believe there is the ability to collaborate and work together in order to figure out: how do we make sure tha tevery child within the school district is successful?" Simmons said.

The project ultimately serves a higher purpose.

"Education is really a foundation of our democracy. It's a large part of how we ensure each and every citizen has a voice that is real and recognized, Stumbo said.

The recommendations from Diversity Focus come from a report on racial disparity in Johnson County that was compiled one year ago.

Iowa City won't be the only school district the initiative targets. They are working with districts through the Corridor, the Cedar Valley and Minneapolis, as well. Minneapolis has faced many of the same diversity issues that eastern Iowa has faced, and Simmons said he hopes to use the city's accomplishments as a model.
 
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