School system hires minority recruiter Consulting firm to aid in diversifying staff

October 26, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

As part of its continuing effort to diversify its teaching staff, the Carroll County school system has hired a consulting firm to help recruit and retain minority teachers.

Phyllis Black, president of Minority Program Implementation of Westminster, said the company seeks to assist businesses, schools and other organizations in recruiting minority employees. The county school system is MPI's first client.

MPI's main responsibility is to help school officials carry out a plan -- developed by a committee of teachers, administrators and parents -- to attract and keep more minority teachers in Carroll schools.

"I've made contact with new [minority] teachers, letting them know I'm available if they have any kinds of issues or concerns," said Black, 41, a native Carroll countian who is affiliated with several local civic and religious organizations. She sees her new position as a liaison between minority teachers and school officials.

"A lot of the new teachers are not residents of Carroll County, and some of them want to relocate," said Black, who has two children in county schools.

"I'm going to go out of my way to introduce them to other folks in the community and have social events for minority staff so they can become supports for each other," she said.

Black and her husband, Irvin, started MPI six months ago and began soliciting clients in the summer. Phyllis Black was formerly a senior administrative assistant to the vice president at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Irvin Black, MPI vice president, is a mechanical technician at Marada Industries in Westminster and a former art teacher and coach in Carroll schools.

Through December

The contract between MPI and the school system calls for the consulting firm to work 32 hours a week at a rate of $27 per hour, Black said. The initial contract runs through December, when it is up for renegotiation, she said.

Some of MPI's other responsibilities with Carroll schools include scheduling social events for newly hired minority teachers, finding mentors for students and going on minority teacher recruiting trips with school officials.

"Our goal is to diversify our teaching force, and for us to accomplish that we need the help of the community," said William Rooney, director of human resources for county schools.

In Carroll's teaching force of 1,648, the 27 minority teachers constitute less than 2 percent of the staff. Former Superintendent Brian Lockard formed a committee in spring last year to develop a plan to hire more minority teachers and encourage minority students in county schools to consider careers in teaching.

"The big thing that hurts us is that we have such a small minority population to draw from," Rooney said.

African-Americans make up about 2.5 percent of Carroll County's population. The total minority population is close to 5 percent.

Last year, school officials went to more predominantly minority schools on their recruiting trips, and they say it has paid off. Eight minority teachers began working in Carroll schools this year.

"That's the highest I can ever remember," Rooney said. "We look at that as a real step forward. We've got the ball rolling, and we've got to keep it rolling."

Among teachers in Carroll schools, the retention rate is better for minorities than nonminorities. Based on 1997 data, the average years of service for a minority teacher is 15.1, compared with 14.5 for other teachers.

"Once we get a minority teacher, we keep them," Rooney said.

Students leave

Barriers to attracting minority teachers include the county's distance from metropolitan centers and a perception that it is an unfriendly place for minorities.

Also, Black said that minority students who graduate from county schools and do well in college frequently don't return to Carroll.

"The ones that are successful and further their education and get degrees usually don't give back to the community," Black said. "Opportunities are very limited. Even if you do get the position, it's tough to get the respect."

Black said she hopes to play a role in making minority teachers feel welcome in the county.

Opening doors

"I'd like to show them around and open up doors for them. I'm very well known in the community," said Black, who belongs to Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality and is the youth director at Union Street United Methodist Church. She is also a member of the Baltimore-based Interfaith Action for Racial Justice.

"You take someone from a city environment who comes out here, and they're lost," she said.

Black has scheduled a get-together and recognition event for minority staff from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Comfort Inn in Westminster.

Patricia Brent, who is black and joined Carroll schools this year as a special education teacher at Westminster Elementary, said she's glad to have someone like Black working with the minority staff.

"Phyllis is working very hard to keep us on track about what's going on with the school board and the community," said Brent, who formerly taught at Meade High School in Anne Arundel County.

"It's really good to have her as a sounding board. She can take her our concerns to administrators in a nonthreatening type way."

Pub Date: 10/26/98

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