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.Read more
The city of Des Moines and A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) are accepting applications from community stakeholders interested in sitting on the advisory committee for a proposed Community Land Trust in an effort to reserve land for permanent affordable housing....
Officials and AMOS say the land trust will be classified as a nonprofit organization with the goal to provide “a supply of sustainable housing for residents with low to moderate incomes” and strengthen, stabilize and preserve neighborhoods...Read more
Lauridsen Skatepark is being certified with USA Skateboarding during a public event Sunday, Polk County and Catch Des Moines officials tell Axios.
Why it matters: The designation means the facility will be a regional skateboarding hub and likely attract more Olympic-qualifying events, Laura Jass, director of sports for tourism advocacy group Catch Des Moines, tells Axios....
DSM police previously had a "three-strikes-and-you're-in-jail" policy to discourage public skateboarding....
- Groups like A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) then led nearly two decades of organizing and fundraising that resulted in Lauridsen Skatepark.
[Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Dew Tour]
About six years ago, AMOS asked families what kept them up at night. Parents said they needed services for children in mental health crises.
“Kids were waiting months to see a therapist. They were not getting what they need from a system designed for adults,” said Crystal Loving, of First Unitarian Church. A child in the midst of a mental health crisis would be handcuffed, put in the backseat of a police car, and enter the juvenile justice system rather than get the mental health care that was needed."
Two parishioners from Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart in Ankeny collaborated with others to move bureaucratic mountains to create a plan that helps children suffering mental health crises.
Jan Brown and Sue Murphy said their faith plus a passion for helping people in pain fueled their drive to fill a gap in health care in the Des Moines area....
“It wasn’t charity, it was justice,” Brown said.
Brown and Murphy along with representatives of AMOS... did research, talked to families, visited with hospital officials and legislators and built the political will to figure out a new system...
Now they’re trying to ensure that it has long-term funding and that there are counselors who can meet the need of the community including refugees and immigrants who call central Iowa home.
Brown said: “That’s our goal is to listen to concerns of families and improve the communities we live in.”
This week, Polk County Supervisors approved AMOS' proposal to invest $1.8 million in ARPA funds to diversify and retain mental health providers through a scholarship and loan forgiveness program. This win is the result of over 10 months of organizing work including:
- Hundreds of conversations in Mental Health Civic Academies that surfaced workforce needs, including to fully staff the Children's Mental Health Crisis system AMOS worked so hard to secure
- A 'Mental Health Provider Summit' in December to understand providers' specific workforce needs and barriers
- 100+ AMOS leaders contacting Polk County supervisors in support of AMOS' mental health workforce proposal
- 4 AMOS leaders testifying at a Polk County Supervisors meeting to share the need for this investment, particularly for refugee and immigrant communities
- AMOS representation at mental health task force meetings by a First Unitarian leader
AMOS leaders plan to continue to work with Polk County to ensure that the funds are administered to maximize accessibility and impact.
The latest video by the (Tony Hawk Foundation) Skatepark Project highlight stories of community transformation in and from the installation of the Lauridsen Skatepark in Des Moines, Iowa.
"There was a dogged persistence in skaters trying to land whatever they were trying to learn," notes IAF organizer Paul Turner. "In terms of advocacy, it's kind of the same."
The full story, told by Turner and AMOS leader Jan Hill, can be read in the Des Moines Register.
Story Behind America's Largest Skatepark, RIDE Channel [video]
As Des Moines Public Schools shifts disciplinary policy, Axios contrasts the new discipline rules to the “Let’s Talk” conflict resolution strategy that A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) designed and successfully implemented in Des Moines Middle Schools 8 years ago.
The rules [assigning students involved in fights to virtual learning] are likely to take more students out of classrooms and increase disciplinary disparities among students of color, says Cheryl Hayes, a juvenile justice reform advocate with A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS), a network of metro churches and community groups that runs a mediation program in the district….
Community volunteers [from AMOS] launched the Let's Talk program in three district middle schools eight years ago with one key objective: fix a system that disproportionately disciplines students of color, Hayes, who's also a coordinator for the program, tells Axios.
The district has since expanded the program to nearly all of its 12 middle schools...
Let's Talk is run by AMOS, a network of dozens of metro churches, neighborhood groups and community organizations.
The program helps students resolve conflicts peacefully, and ultimately aims to disrupt the "school-to-prison pipeline" — the link between punishments and the criminal justice system.
Inspiration for the restorative justice program came from "The New Jim Crow," a book about the U.S. legal system and how it has led to the mass incarceration of Black men, Hayes says.
What they do: Volunteer mediators, such as retired judges, go into schools to help resolve student conflicts or other disciplinary issues through discussion.
Oftentimes, mediators help students work through home-life traumas that are a factor in problems surfacing at school, Hayes says.
Program facilitators also assist with cultural awareness training among district educators to help improve teaching and disciplinary practices.
What they're saying: Hayes says organizers believe Let's Talk is a factor in why disciplinary referrals — generally those involving assaults or weapons — were down in grades 6-8 during the first four months of this school year [as reported by Axios, February 2022].
[Photo credit: Let's Talk via Axios]
AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy) leaders in Ankeny, Iowa, organized in support of an additional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) position to serve in the Ankeny School District. AMOS pastors Fr. Michael Amadeo, Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, and Pastor Beth Wartick, Resurrection Lutheran Church, provided testimony at the Ankeny school board meeting. AMOS leaders are calling for school board decisions that will support the success of every learner in the district.
[Top photo credit: KCCI News DeMoines]
Ankeny Parents Rally in Support of Diversity Hiring, KCCI News Des Moines
Fr. Michael Amadeo Testimony, Facebook [video]
Pastor Beth Wartick Testimony, Facebook [video]
The Rev. Bill Cotton wasn’t sure he was seeing what he was seeing. As a civil rights leader, the longtime pastor of Grace United Methodist in Des Moines, and founding member of the grassroots organization AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy), he had seen a lot. But he never thought he would see a teenager on the roof of one of his two adjoining church garages attempt to jump the gap between them on a skateboard. Fortunately, the skater made the jump, Bill didn’t have a heart attack, and he did what everyone does to annoying skateboarders — he shooed them away.
Little did Bill, who has since died, know that those skaters, from his own congregation, would join AMOS and start a revolution in Des Moines.
The skaters were part of the Grace United Methodist Church youth group, and when AMOS organized a large-scale community listening campaign, they met with that youth group and heard of the need for a first-class skatepark in Des Moines. That led AMOS to Callanan Middle School’s newly formed skateboard club, where they heard more of the same. The AMOS adults challenged the youth to organize a presentation to Des Moines’ mayor and City Council at an upcoming AMOS Issues Assembly....
[Photo Credit: Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines]
There From the Beginning: Lauridsen Skatepark, Des Moines Community Foundation [video]