NAACP’s education committee has been hard at work this week. First, co-chairs Mary Lynne Jones and Anita Fleming Rife were joined by committee members, Joyce Bruce and Bob Glass at Des Moines Public School district’s board meeting, Tuesday, June 18th to hear the district’s presentation of the Males of Color (MOC) monitoring report, part II, which is an assessment of the academic progress that is made by African American and Hispanic males.
We had informed the larger community about the upcoming report and invited them to attend—our efforts paid off. Sheena Thomas of AMOS, Jon Marion, President & Founder of Inclusive Cultural University (ICU) and his father, Dell Marion, and others were in attendance.
On behalf of the superintendent, district staff presented the monitoring reports to the school board. The board must approve these reports and determine whether they are compliant with their stated goals. Board members Teree Caldwell-Johnson, Dionna Langford, Heather Morrow Anderson, Kyrstin Delagardelle-Shelley and Dwanna Bradley questioned the data and expressed disappointment that males of color continue to fail in the school district. The board refused to approve the MOC report.
Thursday, the education committee met with Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ahart for our regularly scheduled monthly meeting. In addition to the education committee, district staff were in attendance. We had a really good discussion about whether or not the current pedagogy and curriculum will bring about the positive academic outcomes that are desired.
Pedagogy and curriculum change were also important points made by Keynote speaker, Dr. LaGarrett King, associate professor of Black History, the University of Missouri, at Friday’s workshop: Changing the Narrative: Anti-Racist Curriculum, Policies, & Spaces in Iowa’s Schools.
It was 400 years ago this year that the first enslaved Africans were captured and brought to the shores of Virginia, so it was apropos that Dr. King incorporated that historical fact into his presentation on how to teach Black history in K-12 classrooms.
In addition to Dr. King’s presentation, we heard from school board members from Cedar Rapids, Ames and West Des Moines. A graduate student, L. Wesley Harris presented his research on Student Activism and the Politics of Naming. The highlight though was the participation of the high school students, Lincoln High School student, and NAACP Youth Council member, Asascia Manderson, who performed her poem, “My Brown.” She was phenomenal and then there was the outstanding Roosevelt High School student, Ayanna Minnihan, who did an outstanding job of facilitating discussion following Dr. King’s presentation. These students did an extraordinary job.
Education committee members, Mary Lynne Jones, Anita Fleming-Rife and Mickey Carlson attended this all-day workshop, which was hosted at King Elementary School by its principal, Kisha Barnes.
The workshop was well attended by about 65 school teachers, administrators, Iowa State graduate students and elected officials from across the state.