Thursday, July 2, 2009
Irving Education Coalition addresses issues impacting minorities within Irving ISD
The hallways of the IISD reflect the very essence of the words "melting pot."
The Irving Independent School District (IISD) is 100 years old this year. A lot has changed from year 1909 to present day and one of those changes has been the ethnic diversity of its student body. According to Anthony Bond, chairman of the Irving Education Coalition (IEC) and founder of the NAACP Irving Chapter, "The biggest change has been the increase of the student minority population. Minorities make up for 84 percent of the IISD student body." In the Irving Public School System, the days where being a minority might suggest you are the single person of color in your classroom are over. The hallways of the IISD reflect the very essence of the words "melting pot." Irving ISD educates over 33,000 students and of those students there are 4.2 percent Asian, 68 percent Hispanic, 0.3 percent American Indian, and 12.7 percent African American representing the various minority groups.
In 1995, Bond recognized the need to bring various diverse groups together with unique interest, professional, and ethnic backgrounds, as well as perspectives to share ideas resulting in positive solutions for the Irving Public School System. "Diversity is necessary because it is important the students are seeing and interfacing with individuals from the school's front office to the classrooms that look like them. Minority students feel more comfortable and learn better when they are in an environment where they feel their differences are celebrated and embraced. IEC plays a vital role in ensuring the school district is constantly being sensitive to those minority students' needs," states Bond.
IEC also played an integral role in the support of the Memorandum of Understanding document (MOU), a document that was created to give notice to local, city and federal governments' involvement in addressing perceptions in the community regarding issues of inequality and marginalizing of people of ethnicity, race, color, and gender. The primary issues the MOU document reports and monitors are: proper consideration and hiring of minorities; procurement of services and supplies through minority and women contractors and vendors; implementation of appropriate and fair student discipline of minorities; effective parental relations and communication between parents of minorities and local schools; and cross-cultural literature and training for students and staff. IEC collaborated with Irving ISD, U.S. Department of Justice, and Community Relation Services to provide a tool that warrants government's attention and resolve within IISD, as it relates to challenges that affect the minority communities.
The most pressing challenges IEC is working to address the need for more diverse hiring of staff. Bond explains, "The staff within the Irving public school districts does not appropriately reflect the student body. IEC hopes through the efforts of the MOU document, Irving ISD will be more committed to following the North Texas Small Business Development Center (NTSBDC) mission and philosophy regarding equal and fair opportunities for all women and minority businesses.
Recently, two African Americans -- Nancy Jones, Place 1, and A.D. Jenkins, Place 2 -- were elected as members of the Irving ISD Board of Trustees. The election of these two minorities gives hope that change within IISD is on the horizon.
Jenkins is optimistic of the progress they are taking to incorporate the ideas of all minorities, as well as partners within the business, church, and local community. Jenkins states, "I have seen the steps the IISD has taken toward progress and being more open to innovative ideas and becoming more conscience of the importance of diversity, especially as it relates to the current selection process for Superintendent." Jenkins knows the importance of community involvement firsthand. He founded the non-profit, Believing In God, Depending On God's Strength (B.I.G.D.O.G.S.) and its sole purpose is to provide a positive outlet for youth through education, mentoring, and athletic programs. They also provide math and reading programs, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test preparation (TAKS), and youth summits.
"I firmly believe the underlying issue we must overcome is communication breakdown. We need more minorities represented, but most importantly we need to ensure there are efforts in place that provides an avenue to dialogue and share ideas," explains Jenkins. The belief is when all groups who have a vested interest in the Irving public school system communicate, half the battle is won.
One battle that has been fought and won is with an IISD school that faced many challenges. Sam Houston Middle School located in northwest Irving is a true model of how well a school can perform when the community gets involved and embrace diversity. Sam Houston has a predominately Hispanic and African American student body and the vast majority of its students came from a low-income demographic. The Irving Bible Church (IBC), a predominately upper-middle class Caucasian church, saw a need with Sam Houston Middle School three years ago and responded.
Owen DeWitt, former church liaison for IBC Mentor Program states, "We decided to challenge ourselves by going outside the walls and work with a school where we could make a difference and we believe we were able to because we approached it as a partnership rather than a church ministry."
The IBC school outreach program entails a Lunch Buddy Program, Teacher Appreciation Program, and a Campus Beautification Program. Since the church's involvement with Sam Houston Middle School they have adopted over thirty students and have seen the rewarding personal and academic benefits this program has brought to the school, as well as a sense of fulfillment for its members. Rick Nolly, former principal of Sam Houston Middle School and current principal of Nimitz High School, says "The partnership of IBC, along with the dedication of our staff is the reason we were able to improve the overall TAKS test scores and I firmly believe a school cannot be fully successful without the collaboration of the school, parents and the community."
It was once stated that true poverty occurs when one feels there is no hope. Organizations like IEC are dedicated to bringing hope to the minority students of IISD and it knows this hope can only take place when a community of all faiths, backgrounds, and races work together for the common good. When this collaboration occurs, a community creates a legacy of richness that will continue from one generation to another. Businesses and church leaders who want to know more about the program Irving Bible Church started with Sam Houston Middle School can contact IBC at (972) 560-4600 or visit the website at www.irvingbible.org.
Pegasus News Content partner - North Dallas Gazette
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