Ames Progressive Alliance strives toward social justice training in public schools


Mary Pautsch/Iowa State Daily

Matthew Goodman, Ames Progressive Alliance member, discusses ways to implement social justice training within the Ames Public Schools.

Mary Pautsch

For Iowa State education professor Gale Seiler, the need to advocate for diversity within the Ames Community School District is a serious concern.

Various members of the Ames community agreed with Seiler on Wednesday night at the Ames Public Library during “Inclusive Ames – Question 2 Action,” an event organized by the Ames Progressive Alliance (APA). The organization aims to use or create community resources to benefit the city, especially in terms of social justice and empowerment.

“Speaking from the viewpoint of Alliance, I don’t want you to avoid challenges,” Matthew Goodman, APA member, said to those in attendance before the event began. “We want to bring mass to the goals we make here.”

The Inclusive Ames event was created to let the city’s citizens help create resolutions to problems identified by the APA and the Ames community.

Wednesday night’s event posed the question, “How can the Ames community empower and equip families and all young residents to help combat discrimination that has been amplified since the election?”

Those in attendance were split up into small groups to discuss the proposed question, and discussions quickly turned toward the Ames Public School system.

“I’m shocked by the lack of depth [in discussions] around topics of race, religion, anything, within the public schools,” Seiler said.

Seiler mentioned that she believes it is important to identify social justice issues that affect students of color or those who are considered at-risk. In the past, she and others suggested programs to school administrators, but the suggestions were met with resistance.

“We had tried to reach out to Ames Middle but had been turned down,” Seiler said. “Then we did go to Ames High, and they were very receptive.”

After some discussion among the individual groups, the Ames Progressive Alliance decided to work toward building a plan to identify a set of standards for social justice training in all public schools. The training would be evaluated for its quality and effectiveness.

A committee consisting of members of the Ames community plans to contact other school districts across Iowa to see if there are any similar programs that have already been implemented in their schools.

The committee also is seeking to put pressure on Ames Public Schools’ administrators to create a professional development day for teachers and staff for the social justice training to take place, and then create resources for faculty to look back on for reference.

The improvement of students’ learning environments and experiences is a long-term goal. One smaller goal to achieve this would be to include younger individuals, middle school students in particular, in future Ames Progressive Alliance discussions.

Goodman continued the discussion by sharing his vision of the end results.

“The end, end goal for me would be to see reading and math scores rise and nearly every student graduate,” Goodman said.

The Ames Progressive Alliance will have a follow-up meeting of “Inclusive Ames” from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Ames Public Library.