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WATERLOO — A town hall meeting to hear and address concerns with Waterloo Community Schools will be held Thursday at New Hope Baptist Church, 710 Broadway St.

The event, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., is hosted by the 100 Strong Coalition, a group of local residents who recently formed due to their concerns with the district. The Black Hawk County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also is supporting the meeting.

Members of the coalition and the NAACP were hearing complaints about the schools from parents, students, teachers and other residents. “That is how this all came about,” said LaTanya Graves, NAACP president. Among the concerns are the achievement gap between white and minority students, student retention issues, low test scores and funding for the neediest schools.

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Graves cited the ratings district schools receive on the Iowa School Report Card. The online report card tracks 10 measures relating to student proficiency on the Iowa Assessments, achievement gaps, college and career readiness, attendance and more. Based on each school’s performance over two years, the Iowa Department of Education gives one of six ratings from priority to exceptional using a 100-point scale.

For 2016-17, the most recent year included, nine district schools were labeled as needing improvement and another two were considered “priority.” The remaining seven schools were listed as acceptable, the third of the six ratings levels.

“We went before the school board and tried to address the concerns,” said Graves, which they’d gathered at previous community meetings. “We can’t continue to sit back and say nothing.” The group of black residents spoke during the public comment period last month at a Waterloo Board of Education meeting.

The Rev. Belinda Creighton-Smith, another organizer, said the meeting will feature a panel of community members. Attendees will be invited to get involved in coming up with solutions to the issues that are discussed. Organizers said they hope to include a Waterloo Schools’ official on the panel, but the district said Tuesday that no one was planning to participate in the meeting.

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