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Protesters gather outside Manchester City Hall before Wednesday's school board meeting, pointing to what they say is a lack of representation of people of color among school administrators, staff and elected officials in the city. (PAUL FEELY/UNION LEADER)

Protesters seek to draw attention to diversity initiatives in Manchester


MANCHESTER — A group of about 30 protesters rallied outside City Hall before Wednesday’s school board meeting looking to draw attention to what they say is a lack of representation of people of color among school administrators, staff and elected officials.

Members of the Young Organizers United (YOU) group, part of the Granite State Organizing Project, addressed members of the board during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting looking to draw attention to two initiatives, according to Izzy Okunlola, Youth and Education Organizer for YOU.

“One of the campaigns is to have student representatives on the Manchester school board,” said Okunlola. “There’s a state law that says if a district allows it, there can be one or two student reps on the board. Not voting members, but they represent the board.”

Okunlola said Nashua has two student reps that sit in on its school board meetings.

“We interviewed them, and they recommend Manchester do it also,” said Okunlola. “We’re here pushing for the city to do that.”

Representatives of YOU were also asking school board members to consider adopting a resolution to fully implement an Office of Civil Rights Resolution Agreement Work Plan, related to a resolution agreement city school officials signed with the federal Office of Civil Rights back in 2014.

The 2014 agreement followed the release of a report by the OCR that found black, Latino and English-learning students were disproportionately under-enrolled in the district’s Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

The report found that during the 2010-2011 school year, 26 out of the 434 seats in AP courses were held by black or Latino students. Their enrollment in city high schools was 381 and 596, respectively.

A comprehensive audit of the district in 2013 also highlighted racial disparities, in particular the lack of nonwhite teachers and administrators.

“A work plan was approved by the Manchester school board a few years ago,” said Okunlola. “There are some things in there that have been addressed, but very slowly. It doesn’t seem to be a focus of the school board right now.”

“The Manchester school district made an agreement to ensure equity,” said Carol Backus, a member of the Granite State Organizing Project’s executive committee. “That means equal opportunity for all students

to succeed. I encourage you to continue to implement the draft plan resolution agreement to help make

Manchester a model for others to follow.”

Both Backus and Okunlola pledged the support of their organizations in assisting the district explore these initiatives.

The school board took the comments under advisement.