Apr 7, 2022 - News

Ankeny superintendent explains move to halt diversity specialist hiring

Ankeny Superintendent Erick Pruitt

Erick Pruitt, Ankeny schools superintendent, speaks during a forum at Southview Middle School on Sept. 29, 2021. Photo: Bryon Houlgrave/The Register/ USA Today Netork

The Ankeny school district's recent removal of a job opening for a diversity, equity and inclusion specialist has prompted pushback from families who say the job is needed in the fast-growing and increasingly diverse community.

  • Ankeny superintendent Erick Pruitt agrees, which he says is why he pulled the position before it was voted on by the school board Monday.

State of play: On Feb. 1, the Ankeny school board approved a recommended plan by administrators that funded new positions, including a DEI specialist.

  • But after that plan was approved, a school board member raised concerns in March that job descriptions for the new positions had not been included in the presented plan, which is a board policy.
  • The board later decided to bring five jobs back up again for discussion and a vote.

Yes, but: Last Monday, when the school board received a preliminary agenda for the five jobs, only four were on there.

  • The DEI specialist had been removed without discussion by board leadership, Amy Tagliareni, an Ankeny school board member, tells Axios.

What happened: Pruitt tells Axios that he received feedback from board members prior to the April 4 meeting, and that he later told the board leadership he was going to pull the job from the agenda.

  • Pruitt says no one pressured him to make the decision. He plans on recommending the role again in May, along with other DEI requests, after the board learns the results of a DEI audit.

Pruitt says he wants board members and the community to have the results of the audit, which started in October, to help inform their votes.

  • It'll give the district a detailed look at Ankeny's demographics and culture, and a better idea of how to support its rapidly diversifying student population.

What they're saying: Tagliareni expressed concerns over transparency and communication between board members after how the removal of the DEI position played out.

  • School board president Trent Murphy tells Axios that members have time to ask questions, speak with the superintendent and get informed prior to voting.
  • "This is not a transparency issue, this is a school board and administration that come to meetings informed and prepared," he says.

As for Pruitt, he says, "any educational leader that is attempting to support the development and growth of a district will tell you that getting everyone on the same page is difficult."

  • "Pausing it may not make sense now, but when I bring it back in May, and I'm hoping it gets approved, I think it sets us up for better work over the summer and leading up to my second year here in the district."

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