In a public assembly at St. Paul AME, 140 AMOS leaders secured commitments from new DMPS Superintendent Dr. Ian Roberts and four school board candidates to work together to expand 'Let’s Talk Now' and restorative justice practices, support student mental health, and retain and diversify the Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) teaching workforce. In the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Roberts announced that DMPS will change hiring practices for people with criminal records.
Charice Williams, the Hiatt Middle School student engagement coordinator [and Bethel AME Church leader], spoke about the importance of having school staff who look like their students and about the barriers to achieving this goal.
Williams told those gathered about a woman... who was previously incarcerated but ultimately earned a master's degree and 30 years later has worked for both the state and county. Yet because of her criminal record, the woman was not eligible for a stipend position as part of the district's school-based mentor program Sisters 4 Success, Williams said.
"For less than $2,000 from the district, we missed out on an unlimited resource for our girls," Williams said in an interview. School staff work hard to support students and give them chances to grow and learn, Williams said. It is frustrating that adults are not always given the same chance to overcome their mistakes "no matter how long ago it was."