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ICCSD plans more community engagement for boundary talks

Drawing the line, take five

IOWA CITY– The introduction of yet another set of secondary school attendance boundaries was met with disapproval and disappointment from ICCSD community members.
Administration presented the fifth round of boundary scenarios at the Tuesday, April 28, board meeting with three maps making the cut so far.
The first was 5B, previously referenced as 4B, which did not change from its last iteration. This map takes into account geographic areas while also balancing demographic distribution.
Scenario 5C was a completely new map that was solely based on geographic features, using the Iowa River as the east-west boundary and Oakdale Boulevard as the north-south boundary. This map did not make any adjustments for demographic equality across secondary schools.
The final map, largely favored by board members, was 4F, now renamed 5F. This map created the most balance, demographically, between secondary schools, though it creates an island of Kirkwood Elementary students, who would be in the North Central/Liberty High attendance zone– despite being closest to North West Junior High.
The district began the community engagement process Monday, May 4, with a listening post at South East Junior High. Another will be held Thursday, May 7, at 7 p.m. at North West Junior High.
Board members each gave their opinions on which scenario seemed to be the best fit for the school district.
Director Patti Fields was uneasy about several of the scenarios that put schools close to or at capacity, a concern the district had previously when opening new schools.
“It’s very difficult two years later to explain why we have temporary buildings because it’s a new building,” Fields said. “We can do it in a smarter way.”
Fields favored scenario 5F but felt it was necessary to give Kirkwood students, a population with high free and reduced lunch (FRL) numbers and low socio-economic status (SES), the option to attend North West Junior High instead of North Central.
North West is within walking distance of the entire Kirkwood attendance zone.
Director Tuyet Baruah agreed that this scenario would be a disadvantage to students who already have more education barriers than those who come from families with higher SES.
Earlier in the year, families whose children attended Van Allen Elementary expressed displeasure that their students would not be attending North Central Junior High and Liberty High. That scenario was since been revised.
“If we’re willing to allow kids with higher SES the opportunity to go to schools closer to them, then we should allow children who come from families with lower SES the same opportunities because they actually have more barriers that make it more difficult for them to actually engage in…activities,” Baruah said. “And transportation becomes an issue as well.”
Baruah suggested that despite the communities past rejection of split feeder systems, it could be a viable option for this scenario.
Kirkwood parents were displeased with this option, many feeling it was unfair to split groups because some may have the means to attend North Central while others would not.
Director Brian Kirschling worried that giving Kirkwood students a choice in junior high attendance would push North West past its capacity further down the road.
While that option could put the school at capacity, Superintendent Stephen Murley assured the board that even if 100 percent of Kirkwood students choose to enroll, North West would still be operable.
Regardless of junior high choice, Kirkwood students would still attend Liberty for high school.
Finding a balance between geographic proximity and demographics has been an ongoing struggle for the board and administration.
Options that placed the emphasis on maintaining neighborhood schools were entertained, but it was found that they did not also balance student demographics, a high priority for the school board.
“All of the geographic options aren’t balanced, it’s not even close,” President Chris Lynch said.
In the scenario that solely looked at geographic features (5C), there was a difference of 23 percent between the high school with the highest population of low SES learners (City) and Liberty, the school with the lowest number of low SES students.

TLC Program Update:
The board also discussed next steps for the Teacher Leadership Compensation (TLC) program that the district was awarded last December.
The district hopes to use the TLC system to improve student achievement, retain teachers, promote collaboration between staff and departments, and reward professional growth.
It will do this through three types of positions: building-based leadership teams, curriculum and instruction support positions, and TLC program facilitators. (See related story, page 1).
Awarded as a grant of $4.3 million, that money will move into the district’s general fund after three years, according to Chace Ramey, Chief Communications and Human Resources Officer.
“It becomes something that doesn’t go away; that’s why we want to move away from calling it a grant because it becomes part of our annual funding from the state,” Ramey said.
When the program was initially presented, many staff members worried that by taking teachers out of classrooms, class sizes would grow as other teachers would have to pick up the slack.
Murley assured them that buildings would still be staffed according to the district’s staffing plan and that the program wasn’t an attempt to save money on educators.
Director Marla Swesey, on the TLC Advisory Committee, expressed enthusiasm for the program but worried that some teachers might need more information.
“The teachers I have met with are really excited about it,” Swesey said. “But I do think there are a lot of non-informed teachers out there as well that we need to make sure they know what’s going on.”
In the past few months, the administration released several videos about the TLC program to staff and plans on continuing engagement throughout the rest of the school year.
Hiring for the program began in March and professional development will take place over the summer before the positions are rolled out in August.

Affirmative Action and Equity Report:
Director of Equity and Staffing Kingsley Botchway II gave a report on diversity and equity goals and the district’s achievement of those goals to date.
Two hiring goals were achieved based on data from 2013-2014: increasing the number of male elementary teachers to 15 percent of the teaching staff(the district is currently at 16.1 percent) and creating more gender balance among administrators; 56.86 percent are now female.
Goals that were not met included increasing minority teaching staff to five percent, minority support staff to 12.5 percent, and minority administration to six percent.
The district currently sits at 4.33 percent for minority teaching staff and 10.55 percent for minority support staff.
According to the report generated Oct. 1 the district was at zero percent for minority administrators; however, the district has since hired two minority administrators.
“From a numbers perspective we haven’t necessarily achieved our goal, but this is a continual thing [to work on],” Botchway said.
In order to continue with progress, Botchway and the district will network with organizations and educational institutions and follow through with the current Equity Plan, and continue to monitor district, state and national data.
The district hopes that by 2020, minorities will make up 15 percent of all staffing categories.
The Equity Plan aims to improve the educational experiences of students by providing more culturally inclusive learning environments. It also focuses on closing the achievement gap in elementary and secondary reading and math which goes along with the district’s strategic goals.
The district will do this by increasing minority staff composition and doing more community engagement, while also working to reduce disproportionality in categories such as special education and graduation rates, and creating curriculum that is more multicultural and gender fair.