Bias in Howard school hiring? Diversity: Charge by local chapter of NAACP against county school system is off-base.

September 14, 1998

IT MAY BE true that Howard County schools could use more African-American teachers, but criticism by the county's branch of the NAACP that suggests the system discriminates against black applicants is way off base.

Compared to other suburban Maryland school systems, Howard County has done an admirable job of hiring African Americans. It should get credit for its efforts.

The NAACP cannot ignore that more than 30 percent of the school-based administrators are black in a system whose student population is about 16 percent African-American. Blacks represent 12 percent of the county's teacher pool. Such a high percentage of black administrators can influence the education of African-American students in the county.

It is perplexing that even in Howard County, with its high concentration of middle-class African American families, that black students are not doing as well as whites or Asians on standardized tests. Indeed, Hispanic students, many of them TTC from families where English is still being learned, often score as well or better than African Americans. It may be that black students have a greater need for teachers with whom they can identify.

School board officials say they have a hard time recruiting qualified blacks. But the NAACP contends that some veteran black teachers from other school systems have been turned down for jobs in Howard. Even if true, those individual cases do not warrant such a blanket indictment.

To believe that the school system is discriminating against black teacher applicants, one would have to believe that school system administrators, including Superintendent Michael E. Hickey, are racist.

There is far more evidence of the opposite, that Dr. Hickey and his staff are committed to finding the best teachers of any race available for Howard County schools.

Pub Date: 9/14/98

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