Minority residents, educators discuss diversity in schools

Difficulty recruiting, retaining blacks as teachers is problem

November 17, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Minority residents and Carroll County educators discussed last night issues affecting diversity in the school system.

Sponsored by the Carroll County Branch of the NAACP, "A Partnership in Our Future" is "one step among many that we are taking to improve communication between members of the minority communities and the schools," said Leon B. Dorsey Jr., local chapter president.

In Carroll County public schools, slightly more than 2 percent of county teachers and three of the 125 supervisors are African-American. Those numbers reflect a population that is about 3 percent minority.

"It is essential that our children see African-Americans in teaching positions, or as the school nurse," said Jean Lewis of New Windsor. "But, we just don't see it."

Vanessa Chappel-Lee of Sykesville pointed out that school system representatives at the meeting were all whites.

"How can we plan without a diverse board?" she asked. "If you are planning for minorities, you need minority representation."

William H. Hyde, superintendent of schools, pledged to continue efforts to recruit and retain minorities.

Attracting qualified minority educators to the county goes beyond the schools, beyond salary and compensation, he said.

"We are not where I'd like to see us," Hyde said. "We have put the emphasis on recruiting teachers and helping them connect with the community, trying to make this a warm, welcoming place. This is a village problem we have."

"We are not very inviting," said Dottie Mangle, assistant superintendent of instruction. "We have to work harder to appreciate and understand the minority culture. Let us know the problems so we can investigate what obstacles there are to welcoming."

Michael Perich, supervisor of continuous school improvement, said minority candidates have been sincere in their reasons for rejecting Carroll as a place to begin their teaching careers.

At Bowie State College last spring, Perich was among more than 50 recruiters from across the country competing for about 40 minority students seeking teaching positions.

"They are very aware of the small minority population here," Perich said. "They would rather live in an urban area."

Carroll hopes to soon begin a student teaching program with historically black Morgan State University in Baltimore.

"If we can get students to come to our system for their student teaching, we have a much better chance of interesting them in our system," said William Rooney, director of human resources for county schools.

Student achievement, multicultural education and the racial climate in Carroll's schools were also among the topics that drew about 100 people to the forum in Westminster. Participants focused on issues affecting minorities in the classrooms and administrative offices.

"We want to let officials know our needs," said Patricia Mack-Peterson, chair of the education committee for the local branch. "We want to understand their direction for the future and how that matches with minority communities' vision."

Based on statistics from the Maryland State Department of Education, Carroll needs to improve on efforts in multicultural education, said Mack-Peterson.

Cordell Hunter, an officer in the state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said, "It is quite evident according to your statistics that you lack minority participation. If Carroll County acts as a functioning learning environment, it will be inclusive rather than exclusive."

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