Only a handful of Carroll County Public Schools staff members are people of color. School officials have been trying to change that for years but have made little progress.
Jon O’Neal, chief of operations, said the number of minority staff members has been roughly in the same place for the last couple of years.
Part of the school system’s strategic plan is to recruit and retain highly qualified employees that are reflective of the school community, as well as to promote them. The effort to have staff reflect the student body has been ongoing for several years and data was discussed at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
Carroll County had 25,345 students as of September 2019, according to Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). Of those students, 82% were white, 7% were Hispanic, 3.9% were Black, 3.7% were two or more races, 2.8% were Asian, .2% were American Indian or an Alaska Native and .2% were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported in July 2019 that of Carroll’s population of 168,447, 91.7% are white, 3.9% are Black, 3.9% are Hispanic or Latinx, 2.1% are Asian and 2% are two or more races.
Carroll County Public Schools reports that of its approximately 2,500 staff members in the entire system, including teachers, administrators, and support staff 95.2% are white, 2.4% are Black, .66% are Asian, .66% are American Indian, .63% are two or more races and .43% are Hispanic.
Minorities have an 88% retention rate and non-minorities have a 93% retention rate, according to a presentation at Wednesday night’s board of education meeting. The goal this year is to boost minority retention to 93%. The school system also wants to increase the minority staff percentage to 5% after falling short last school year.
O’Neal it’s “not simply about changing a number on a chart.” Having a more racially diverse staff can influence students of color to enter the education profession.
“It’s a goal that we’ve been challenged to meet for many, many years now,” he said, referring to a more diverse staff.
He said in an interview diversifying staff has been a system goal since before he started 10 years ago. It has been emphasized in the board’s strategic plan. Data from 10 years ago show the county, though not as diverse as the state in whole, has become more diverse over time.
MSDE’s data showed Carroll had four minority directors, supervisors or coordinators of the 84 who were staffed during the 2010-2011 school year. And of the 42 principals, only one was a person of color.
Board member Patricia Dorsey noted there were only four principals who were Black as of October 2019.
Board member Donna Sivigny said they made progress with principals and the supervisors closely mirror the student population.
“But when we get down to teacher population, that’s not the case,” she said.
State data from October 2019 show of the 1,779 teachers, 1.2% are Black and 2.1% are other minority races. MSDE does not specify the other racial groups for teachers.
There are three schools with no staff of color: Crossroads Middle School, Parr’s Ridge Elementary and Runnymede Elementary. Five schools have one staffer of color.
“I’m not sure if I would want to be the only staff member of color,” O’Neal said.
The percentage of minority staff at schools like East Middle and North Carroll Middle is over 10%. O’Neal said retention is better in those locations but he can’t say why exactly that is. What he does know is that the information from exit interviews show teachers of color feel more comfortable in a school that’s more diverse.
Chantress Baptist, director of human resources, agreed and said other minority staff help attract new recruits.
Carroll County is not the only district to struggle with teacher diversity. O’Neal said Maryland does not produce many teachers of color, and Baptist said it’s a national problem.
Of Maryland’s 62,000 teachers,18.7% are Black and 9.7% are other minorities, MSDE reported last year. Black students make up 33.1% of the student population while Hispanics are at 19.4% and Asian students are at 6.6%.
The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2017, 27% of students enrolled in public schools during the fall of 2017 were Hispanic, 15% were Black and 5% were Asian. They also report during the same school year, 9% of public school teachers in the nation were Hispanic, 7% were Black and 2% were Asian.
The chief of operations said MSDE recognizes that Maryland is a teacher “import state” and support recruitment events like Maryland Education Recruitment Consortium. But recruitment comes down to local initiatives.
O’Neal said on Wednesday a goal of his is to create a relationship with a college or university that can send student teachers or interns of color to work in CCPS, especially Historically Black Colleges and Universities, like Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Baptist said she talks to them once a month.
Baptist said the school system is slightly shy of its goal to retain staff. She and Judy Jones, the CCPS equity and inclusion officer, explained some of the steps they have taken to improve retention include creating mentorships, social programs and visitations to staff of color to ensure support.
“We know when inclusion is in place, members feel welcome, respected and feel seen,” Jones said.
She said leadership opportunities are offered to staff of color in different forms like facilitating discussions during a book club or being a mentor to students of color.
Baptist said in areas where there is low minority staff, they could place two more staffers of color there. She also suggested helping staff of color to become certified in areas where more assistance is needed.
O’Neal suggested, when the budget will allow, offering open contracts to qualified students who will soon graduate from college. They have been offered in the past, he said, but it was difficult to give more than a handful.
Sivigny said she would be willing to talk about open contracts more during budget season.
Baptist said they know they cannot hire every minority applicant, but they need 15% of the applicants to be people of color in order to move the needle. According to data collection that started July 2019, only 1.25% of applicants identified as being a person of color.
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She said later the recruitment of a diverse staff is “not a situation where people are not working hard” but it will take time and effort to change.