Listening session to cover minority issues

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April 17, 2010
— When Greg Ardrey first moved to Janesville 18 years ago, he and his wife met with their daughter’s teachers.

The parents got the feeling the teachers were expecting less from the girl because she was black, Ardrey said, and it took time to work through that issue.

Later, the Ardreys felt their daughter was fingered as a drug dealer for no other reason than that she was black.

The Janesville School District has worked to increase sensitivity over the years. A new effort is set for next week when, for the first time, officials will hold a listening session on issues that arise involving race or ethnicity.

School board members Ardrey and Peggy Sheridan, along with district staff, will listen to parents’ concerns Thursday night at Wilson School.

Ardrey said Sheridan came up with the idea after attending a workshop on diversity. She approached him, and they decided this would be a good idea.

Anyone can attend and speak, as long as they stick to the topic, Ardrey said.

“The goals for the evening are to make everyone feel welcome and safe so that they are able to speak freely about concerns they are facing,” according to a school district news release.

Ardrey and Sheridan want to hear what is working well for minority families and where improvements can be made. And they want to learn the best ways to communicate with the district’s minority families, the news release states.

The board members also will provide participants with information on who they can contact, what resources are available to minority students and how parents can advocate for their children.

Ardrey stressed that everyone is welcome. He said he hopes the session will give the school board input on how the district might improve things for everyone. If white parents want to attend and raise issues, that’s welcome, too.

Ardrey said the session has been in the planning stages for months, so it’s not a reaction to a recent racial harassment issue at Parker High School.

Ardrey said identities of people involved in incidents should not be aired in the public meeting, but if someone wants to report an incident there will be opportunity to do that in private so officials can address the problem.

If you go

The Janesville School Board’s Community Listening Session is set for 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday in the multi-purpose room at Wilson Elementary School, 465 Rockport Road.

Light refreshments, child care and Spanish-language interpreters will be available. For information, call (608) 289-7668 or 757-1677.

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