Dep Ung named first certified Laotian teacher
As diversity awareness continues to take precedence among issues of the Storm Lake area, school district leaders are following the trend with an updated affirmative action plan effective until 2004.
The renewed plan, recently presented to the Storm Lake Board of Education by Middle School Assistant Principal Diane Jones, reflects ongoing progress toward meeting affirmative action goals that, by law, must be updated every two years. Since the district's mandated adoption of an affirmative action plan in 1990, administrators have worked toward correcting minority and gender-related imbalances in the work force, particularly in school districts. Jones said that he reinstatement of 2002-2004 goals already reflect some progress.
First among the goals includes an attempt to increase diverse representation in all areas of the school district, from administrators to custodians. Representation is concentrated toward Hispanic, African American, and Asian employees. However, Jones said that prospective employees will be hired due to the district's needs and qualities of applicants, not their ethnic background.
"We always hire the best applicant possible without looking at race or gender," Jones said. "The candidate that meets our needs is our first priority, but we try to meet our goals along with that."
Since 1998, the district has hired one female administrator, two Hispanic teachers and the district's first Laotian teacher. Despite the progress, Jones feels it's less than likely that the affirmative action bar will be set any higher in Storm Lake.
"Right now, I don't think the job market in northwest Iowa will provide us with the adequate teaching staff we would need to set affirmative action goals any higher," Jones said. "We could look into hiring more male teachers in the elementary schools, but the goals are not intended to be rigid."
Second among the goals includes an effort in continuing to develop programs that increase interaction between diverse groups in support of education. Attaining this will require working with the Storm Lake diversity committee and student groups to better involve minority parents and students in educational activities. The district lists continued activities such as Diversity Day that utilize resources from the community as a way of meeting that goal. Administrators plan to maintain the goal with the continuation of activities that utilize diverse community resources.
Thirdly, the district plans to develop a partnership with Iowa Central Community College and Buena Vista University's School of Education in order to continue training and funding for Instructional Assistants to become fully certified teachers. This goal was met in the past with the December 2001 graduation of two instructional assistants, and the hiring of one of the two as a teacher in the district.
"We've recently hired Dep Ung, who will be our first Laotian teacher in the district, and also went through the BVU program," Jones said. "With her hiring, we met more than one goal, and also met district needs by hiring the best candidate."
The district's final goal includes continuing to provide programs for children to receive tutoring, guidance, and other forms of moral support, particularly during the early developmental years. This goal was met in the past with after-school programs implemented in the four elementary schools and middle school, such as the Tornado Learning Club, that focus primarily on tutoring and guidance. According to Jones, the programs are considered a plus because they were implemented with state grants, and also help the district attain yet another goal, while continuing to serve children who need them.
Jones credited reasonable standards as the reason for the moderate success of the goals set by the district.
"The thing about our goals is that they're to be considered reasonable," Jones said. "Once (the district goals) are satisfied, we then look at affirmative action."