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JOHNSTON, Iowa — For over an hour, the Johnston school board heard passionate remarks from parents and community leaders about a position that aims to bring equity and inclusion to students.

Parents argued whether past social media posts from the district’s new diversity director were appropriate. Johnston selected Louis Fountain as the district’s new diversity director last week, and the school board made the hire official Monday night. For supporters of Fountain, the school board’s approval ushered in a new era in the Johnston Community School District.

“He is a great leader, a great father and his career experiences make him the perfect person to lead our community through this opportunity,” said Larry Tuitty.

Fountain’s approval as the district director of equity, inclusion and belonging is designed to better serve the district’s underrepresented students.

“When I heard about the hire of Louis Fountain, that was the first time I actually had hope for this district,” said Kameron Middlebrooks.

Current student Donny Henderson explained the need. “If I chose to never be friends with anyone who said a racist slur of me, I’d have no friends at this school. I came to ask you guys because you have the power to do something about it,” said Donny.  

Fountain’s past social media posts about fearing police as a Black man and feeling unsafe in certain Iowa communities drew criticism from district parents.

“Why has Mr. Fountain’s public statements of disdain towards those who vote Republican, which include approximately 50% of the Johnston community and the majority of Iowans, not disqualify him from this position,” said Mary White.

Alicia Clevinger was the lone “no” vote from the school board. “I heard all these people tonight talk about character, but I struggle with not being able to ask him questions and I know the reason we’re not able to ask him questions is because it’s something we’ve never done before,” said Clevinger.

Because of his social media posts, some district parents believe Fountain, a current community schools coordinator within Des Moines Public Schools, cannot possibly be inclusive to all students. Roxanne McGee opposed Fountain’s hiring. “Will the students of law enforcement officers have a sense of inclusion and belonging? Will the students of conservative views and families have a sense of inclusion and belonging?” said McGee.

Nicole Hasso says her Black children have never had issues in school and was worried about a past post Fountain made that criticized another Black man’s support for former President Donald Trump. “As a parent, I am concerned when I see a Black man call another Black man a ‘coon’ just because his beliefs are different,” said Hasso.

The majority of the school board felt that as the district has grown to 30% non-white students, the position was long overdue and Fountain will help lead the charge for inclusion.

“Based on his entire body of work, including everything that’s been made aware to us, I think his performance in all his positions we’ve reviewed is exemplary and he’s exactly what this district needs,” said Justin Allen, the president of the school board.

Fountain also received heavy support from Iowa-Nebraska NAACP President Betty Andrews, who is a resident of Johnston and has children who attend Johnston schools.

Fountain begins his new position on May 10 with a salary of $90,000. He was not in attendance for Monday night’s school board vote.