Fishers becomes diverse

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Commentary by Larry Lannan

When I moved to Fishers in 1991, it was my impression that the community’s population was not diverse. That began to change dramatically around 2005. In 2014, Fishers is a much more diverse community that it once was.

The Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation has reacted to this change by training a diversity coach for each school building. These coaches receive training from Ball State University and use that knowledge to train staff members in their own school buildings.

Hamilton Southeastern School Board members received the same training given to the diversity coaches at the Jan. 23 board work session. Ball State Professors Patricia Clark and Eva Zygmunt started the process by separating board members and administrators into three groups: oldest child in the family, youngest child and middle children.

Each group brainstormed how another group viewed the other. This exercise pointed out how we think we understand people who are not like us and shows how little we often know about each other.

The professors pointed out academic research showing how stereotypes can affect expectations. For example, if the stereotype says boys are better at math and science, teachers may encourage boys more than girls to move into more advanced math and science classes.

The experts explained to the board that teachers say they want all their students to succeed, but stereotypes can unwittingly get in the way of enabling all students to reach their full potential academically. Studies show unconscious biases can affect academic achievement.

Examples showed teachers connecting with their students’ families and communities to better understand them. Simply shopping and attending religious services in different communities can help teachers to better understand their students.

Professors Clark and Zygmunt illustrated for the school board how adapting to a more diverse population requires an ongoing effort to connect with students. The school staff will be a key component in this work.

It has always been my experience that diversity strengthens a community. I feel Fishers is a better place now than when I first arrived in 1991 because we are a more diverse community.

The Hamilton Southeastern School system realizes it has work to do to strengthen its approach to diversity in Fishers. I commend the school board and administration for partnering with Ball State University to take strides toward connecting with a diverse student body.


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