NAACP criticizes schools Not enough blacks on teaching staffs, local group tells board

Hiring practices hit

Ratio of teachers to black students worsens, leader says

August 28, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

Members of the Howard County NAACP sharply criticized the county school system last night over its hiring of African-Americans.

Armed with protest posters and a detailed position paper, NAACP representatives said the school system has failed to hire an adequate number of African-American teachers and administrators, passed over qualified black candidates for jobs and unfairly demoted an unnamed black assistant principal to a teaching position.

The NAACP also objected to the hiring of a retired law enforcement officer who they said exhibited a racist cartoon on the door of his police department office.

"This is not the first time that a person with known prejudicial behavior has been embraced by the school system," the position paper said. "The track record for this kind of personnel activity lends itself to charges of institutional racism."

"We're going back to the good ol' boy days," said Jenkins Odoms, president of the Howard County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "We're not going to let this continue or get any worse than it is now."

Odoms added that the NAACP has contacted the state Human Relations Commission and the U.S. Office of Civil Rights about its complaints.

School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said he has not had a (( chance to review the NAACP's position paper and was unprepared to comment last night.

The board did not respond to the NAACP's concerns because they were aired during the "listening post," an open forum that takes place before the official agenda.

Natalie Woodson, who chairs the NAACP's education committee, said there is a gap in the percentage of black students and black school staff members. The local branch conducted a study in 1989 and concluded that 63 African-American staff members needed to be hired to equal the percentage of the black student population. That gap widened to 127 in 1997, she said.

"These figures do not indicate an attempt to attract, recruit and retain African-American professional staff," Woodson said.

In 1997, 16.3 percent of Howard County's 38,857 students were African-Americans, compared with 12.3 percent of the county's 2,522 teachers, according to data from the State Department of Education.

In its position paper, the NAACP said that experienced, black job applicants were "routinely failing to pass interviews, while recent white college graduates with no experience passed."

The group cited as an example an unnamed applicant who was not hired for a teaching job despite having experience as an assistant principal and acting summer-school principal.

"How could a person with those credentials fail to qualify for a position as a classroom teacher?" the NAACP asked in the document.

Ken Smith, an African-American who said he has taught in Los Angeles and Philadelphia and is certified, said he has unsuccessfully applied to teach in the Howard County school system for the past five years. He said his wife, who teaches in Anne Arundel County and also is black, could not get hired in Howard.

"Even as an instructional aide, I can't get a position," Smith said. "Yet, I get called every day to come in and substitute. They're not changing with the times."

NAACP members said they were angered by the treatment of an assistant principal who, they charged, was demoted after a faulty evaluation. The members declined to name the individual.

"We don't want to do that be- cause the person is still in the school system," said Mildred Boyd, a member of the NAACP education committee. "It looks like it's going to have to go to court, anyway."

Boyd said the person's demotion was "arbitrary," considering her track record.

"It is inconceivable that she would not perform at a satisfactory level," Boyd said. "This has been unprecedented. This is a person who is well-trained and has been well-received by the students as well as the parents."

The NAACP also rebuked the school system for hiring an unidentified, retired law enforcement officer as an investigator.

Odoms said the organization plans to follow up on its protest.

"Whatever means it takes, we, the NAACP, are prepared to go forward," Odoms said.

Pub Date: 8/28/98


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