Parham urged to hire more blacks

April 23, 1995|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Since Carol S. Parham became superintendent of Anne Arundel County schools a little more than a year ago, the number of black administrators has been declining, angering local black leaders.

"We are blacks who are very concerned about what is going on in this school system and have vowed to organize to make a change," Walter Blasingame, one of 10 members of the Committee on Education Issues in Anne Arundel County, said Friday. "The dismissals were one of the things that just sort of brought it to a real head."

In February, Dr. Parham announced she was reorganizing her administration. She said she would eliminate the job held by her highest-ranking assistant, Eleanor Harris, who is black, and two director positions, which could threaten the jobs of two other black women.

The top job held by any black is director, the fourth-highest rank in the school system's hierarchy. Six of the 18 directors are black. Of 29 coordinators, the fifth-highest rank, five are black.

From 1981 to 1994, there were as many as six black high school principals at times. Now, there are none.

Only one middle school principal is black, and 13 of 75 elementary school principals are black.

Mr. Blasingame and several other committee members complained that progress made under the administration of former superintendent Edward J. Anderson is being undone.

"It was under the period of his administration that blacks made the type of advancement that they have in this school system," Mr. Blasingame said. "But since that time it has not kept up at that pace. To eliminate us, it just blows my mind."

The situation is a delicate one for Dr. Parham, who is black, because she was named as a defendant in two reverse discrimination suits.

The suits alleged that she bypassed two white men to promote Leslie Mobray, a black administrator, to director of pupil services in October 1993. She was acting superintendent at the time.

William Wentworth, the principal of North County High School, settled his $3.5 million suit out of court.

The suit filed by Huntley Cross, a special assistant to the superintendent, is pending in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Dr. Parham said equity for blacks in hiring, retention and promotion is not a new issue.

"The issues they cite have existed for many years in the school system, and I just really welcome the offer of support to address them," Dr. Parham said.

Her efforts to promote anyone, however, have been stymied because fewer teachers are applying for administrative jobs, she said.

"There's a group now that's been working for several weeks to look at what we might do to encourage people to go into administration," she said. "The shortage is across the board."

She said she would examine the issues raised by the committee, but added that because she is superintendent "there are different expectations of me from many groups."

"I'm the superintendent of the entire school system, and I feel the responsibility to respond to the entire community," she said.

David D. Lombardo, director of human resources, said school system recruiters have tried to encourage minorities to apply for jobs.

Recruiters have made 95 visits to colleges and job fairs and interviewed 1,550 potential employees.

"Of all those recruitment trips, 17 of them were visits to minority schools or job fairs," Dr. Lombardo said. "Of the 1,550 interviews, approximately 220 were with minority applicants."

Mr. Blasingame and committee members say the schools could have avoided the loss of black principals by more aggressive planning.

"It didn't take anybody with any type of long-range vision to see what was going on in that respect," he said. When Lawrence E. Knight retired as principal of Broadneck High School in 1993 "it was quite obvious . . . the only principal left was Mrs. Webb and she had already indicated her intention of retiring."

Laura Webb, who retired from Annapolis High in 1994, asked the school board Wednesday whether the lack of black principals is "tradition or vision?"

The committee asked the board to review its handling of issues involving blacks, including student performance, suspensions and expulsions, the number of minority administrators and teachers and outreach to black parents.

Committee members offered to participate if the board appointed a task force to work on the issue.

"Personally it seems so unnecessary to me that at this point in time in 1995 that we would be here dealing with the kinds of situation we dealt with in the late '60s," Mr. Blasingame said Friday.

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