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Panel to boost minority success in school

TERI VANCE

Representatives of American Indian and Hispanic communities agreed with school district officials during a Wednesday night meeting that the purpose of their committee should be to increase all students’ achievement.

However, the way to do that remained elusive.

John McKenna, president of the Carson City School Board, suggested the group look into why some students do not value education.

In return, Lisa Grayshield, a representative of the Carson Indian Colony, suggested the group investigate why “education, as it is defined in Carson City, is not valuing students.”

Formation of the committee was suggested after several parents raised concerns to the school board that their children were mistreated by high school officials after a fight on Sept. 4. They claimed the students were singled out because they are American Indian.

A committee was formed to address those issues and the concern that racial tension continues to brew between American Indians and Hispanics at Carson High School.

“This isn’t the first time there’s been problems between the groups,” McKenna said. “We have never taken the opportunity to have this kind of discussion. It’s time we do something about it.”

About 17 people attended the first meeting, including Richard Siegal and Laura Mijanovich of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I’m very concerned about school safety, and I’m very much interested in student achievement,” Siegal said. “I hope we can end up with an action program.”

Members of the committee reviewed ground rules presented by district Superintendent Mary Pierczynski and outlined a process of identifying problems and presenting solutions.

Committee members were presented with dropout rates and student test scores broke down by race.

About a dozen issues were brought up – ranging from gang activity to parental involvement to hiring practices and cultural sensitivity in curriculum – but will be narrowed down to the most crucial during a meeting set for Nov. 19.

Although it was a preliminary meeting, trustee Jim Hukari was pleased.

“I think it was positive,” he said. “Everybody’s well represented, and it’s my impression that everybody wants to accomplish something concrete.

“I hope none of us loses sight of that.”

Committee meetings are open to the public. If representatives from other minority groups would like to participate as members, they should call the school district office at 283-2100.

The committee is expected to present proposed solutions to the school board at the March 23 meeting.