NAACP seeks school parity

County chapter calls for more minority teachers, administrators

May 19, 2006|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

The local branch of the NAACP has called on the Anne Arundel County Board of Education to put together an affirmative action plan to increase what it called an "appalling" number of minority teachers and administrators.

Gerald Stansbury, Anne Arundel chapter president, decried the results of an internal school system study, which found that African-Americans and Latinos make up 8 percent of the teachers and 1 percent of administrators, while nearly 25 percent of the student population falls into one of those racial groups.

Meanwhile, he noted that African-Americans make up 64 percent of the custodial staff.

In a letter sent Wednesday to interim Superintendent Nancy M. Mann and board President Konrad M. Wayson, Stansbury suggested they have Kevin M. Maxwell, the incoming superintendent, develop new strategies to hire more minorities in teaching and management positions.

He wrote that the "employment disparities" first reported Monday in The Washington Post "cannot be allowed to continue."

Stansbury and other civil rights leaders said that the school system won't be able to eliminate performance disparities between white and black students until there's more minority representation among county educators.

The county's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a federal discrimination complaint in May 2004 against the school system, citing the achievement gap between black and white students.

In September, the two sides reached an agreement mediated by the Department of Justice to close that gap.

Board member Eugene Peterson said that to meet the terms of that agreement, the racial composition of teachers and administrators must reflect the makeup of the student population.

Of the county's 5,369 teachers, 4,820 are white, 420 are black and 54 Latino, according to school system records.

Wayson said yesterday the board will be in a better position to address the issue once Maxwell formally starts this summer.

Wayson said the system's human resources department is making a concerted effort to attract minorities, at predominantly African-American colleges and in such places as San Juan, Puerto Rico.

"We are going out there," he said. "We are reaching out to attract the brightest and best from wherever we can."

Peterson said a re-examination of hiring policies should not just focus on hiring more people of color. For example, he noted that women dominate the teaching ranks, especially in elementary schools.

"We want competent people," Peterson said. "We don't want a bunch of token hires."

Even as the board has expressed interest in new hiring strategies, it has faced two lawsuits of reverse discrimination in the past four years.

Last year, a former county school administrator, Timothy R. Dangel, who is white, filed a lawsuit against the school board, seeking $600,000 in damages because he was not offered a position filled by a black man.

In 2002, the school system successfully fought off a court challenge by Mark Frye, a former head football coach of Meade High School who said he lost the job because he is white.

School system spokesman Tony Ruffin referred questions to Ken Nichols, acting deputy superintendent of schools, who was unavailable for comment yesterday. He told the Post that other area school systems offer comparatively better pay, so minority recruitment efforts in Anne Arundel have been hampered.

In March, the board agreed to annual 6 percent raises for teachers for the next three years. County Executive Janet S. Owens has included funding for the first raise - $26 million - in her budget proposal for next year.

Carl O. Snowden, an aide to Owens and a civil rights leader, called the issue of pay in not attracting a more diverse work group "an excuse."

"Often you make the excuse you can't find [qualified minorities] ... and then when you do find them, you say the pay is not there," Snowden said yesterday. "If you have the right person in the right position with the right attitude, you will have the right results."

Wayson said factors other than salary, such as affordable housing, are influencing where teachers are settling down.

"It's not always salary that's an issue, it's about where you are going to live in Anne Arundel County."

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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