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JCPS board hears of diversity, second high school updates

JCPS board hears of diversity, second high school updates

February 13th, 2018 by Phillip Sitter in Local News

Jefferson City Public Schools administration building at 315 E. Dunklin St.

The Jefferson City Public Schools Board of Education meeting Monday night was packed with information, and as in recent months, some of the most anticipated pieces of information centered around the district's large, ongoing undertakings — diversity discussions, initiatives and the two high school projects.

The district's diversity discussions last fall led to the city to revive its dormant Human Relations Commission, and Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin spoke at Monday's school board meeting to share that and other city government news. Tergin thanked the district for launching its discussions and asked the district to share its findings with the city on improving diversity, "because one of the questions (the district) asked is what can the community do?"

JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum shared the input he's gotten from various stakeholders on what they'd like to see from the district's diversity work — while at the same time saying the responsibility for improvements is not solely on the district's shoulders.

"We have an important role and we accept that, but it's not just on the schools," Linthacum said, citing needed partnerships with the city and parents, and urging residents to be personally involved.

He went on to announce the district's three main diversity goals:

Continued, ongoing work on the district's hiring practices to ensure the diversity of staff can be increased, so as to match the diversity of the student body.

"Real, relevant and current" diversity training for staff in the form of professional development, which will begin for administrators and board members March 7 with Juanita Simmons — the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville.

JCPS Director of Human Resources Shelby Scarbrough said last month that Simmons will also look at state and district discipline referral data, and Simmons would like to host two other implicit bias training sessions later in the year that will include school resource officers and Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Department staff (upon that department's request).

The resurrection of the district's multi-cultural advisory committee.

Of having three goals, Linthacum cited the saying, "If there's more than three priorites, there's no priorities."

There still weren't many details available about the multi-cultural advisory committee. Linthacum said after the meeting that he will give an update next month to officially finalize the committee's re-creation, and added he's currently speaking with potential committee members.

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He also said Simmons will help the district craft measurable outcomes for its stated diversity goals. "She thinks she can bring a lens to help us, to do it with fidelity, to help us do it right, help us have something with ways to monitor progress," he added.

"Ultimately, I'm responsible as superintendent," he said after board member Michael Couty asked via phone about who will be the champion for these initiatives — at least for now.

When asked after the meeting if that's a sustainable approach in the long-term — whether future superintendents be trusted to keep the work going in coming decades — Linthacum acknowledged he doesn't have a real answer, but it is something he's thinking about and he hopes changes become embedded into JCPS' culture.

Long-term thinking also applies to planning for the opening of the district's second high school.

Co-interim JCPS athletic and activities directors Dennis Licklider and Tim Thompson shared earlier at the meeting that the plan for the beginning of the second high school is to have its teams compete on a varsity schedule — despite only having freshmen and sophomores enrolled for the first year.

Licklider added, though, that football would probably remain junior varsity for the first year, so as to avoid potential mismatches in size leading to possible injuries.

Thompson also clarified a varsity game on the second high school's schedule could be with a JV team from another school.

"To give those students who start at the second high school the same chances everyone else from activities to athletics (has), I think is very important, to keep the momentum going that we have," JCPS Director of Secondary Education Gary Verslues said.

Of construction at the second high school, JCPS chief financial and operating officer Jason Hoffman said Twehous Excavating won the bid for major earthwork at the site. Twehous' base bid — the lowest of six — is worth $2.8 million, and includes blasting and leveling work.