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Community Voices (Roemer): Time for CCPS to stop making excuses, change its approach toward minority hiring

Schools are closed, making this, a perfect time for Carroll County Public Schools to re-tool its teacher recruitment efforts. It’s long past time the school system changed its approach to minority hiring. It’s been doing the same thing now for years, and the situation never seems to improve. In fact, it’s getting worse.

This year, like every other year, CCPS used the same lame excuse to explain why. Our teachers, and the community at large are, at best, uniformly insensitive to the needs of minority teachers, and at worst, outright racist. That excuse is not likely to produce better outcomes, yet annually it’s how the system rationalizes its failure to diversify its faculty.

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Creating a more diverse faculty is absolutely critical to meeting the needs of all of our students, and it has been a stated priority for the school system for a long time, but each year Chantress Baptist, who heads CCPS’s Human Resources Department, and Judith Jones, who is the system’s Supervisor of Equity and Community Outreach, have to explain to the Board of Education why they can’t seem to make any headway accomplishing this goal.

And for some reason, the Board of Education seems perfectly willing to accept their explanation that our schools, and the county generally, are just too unwelcoming for minority educators to want to live and teach here. Personally, as a lifetime resident of Carroll County, I find that explanation offensive. A more valid explanation may be the apparent lack of any accountability for failing to make progress.

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Student pep rallies, and voluntary in-services that do nothing more than preach to the choir, are no substitute for real progress. The truth is, CCPS does precious little in any tangible way that would actually make a difference.

Are principals held accountable when a minority teacher leaves CCPS because the culture in their building is so toxic? Are those principals who do a particularly good job building a culture of inclusion rewarded in any meaningful way? My guess is, it’s of little consequence to most principals whether they’re proficient in this regard. It’s nice if they are, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Are we effectively working with our own minority high school students, encouraging them to consider teaching as a career, and offering them concrete incentives for accepting a position here at home when they do? Are we establishing meaningful partnerships with the right colleges, and providing tangible incentives for their graduates to teach in Carroll County?

Do we thoughtfully place new hires in schools known for their inclusive cultures, and “cluster” teachers so as to provide natural “support groups,” or is the approach no more nuanced than simply placing teachers wherever an opening happens to be?

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Do we offer signing bonuses to minority teachers that require they remain with CCPS for a specified period of time? Do we offer reimbursement of relocation expenses? Do we offer retention incentives to encourage minority teachers to stay?

Have we created a mechanism that effectively links people new to the county to the products and services they desire?

Further, if the current culture in the schools is an impediment to retaining teachers once hired, educating existing staff as to the challenges of being a minority teacher in Carroll County has to be more sophisticated than simply punishing those who say or do something offensive. These situations should be viewed as teachable moments, not opportunities to cleanse the system of undesirables. That approach only hardens attitudes, builds resentment, and destroys any opportunity for “courageous discussions.”

We’re not going to bully our way to more enlightened views concerning race and culture, and we’re not going to talk our way to a more diverse faculty.  Either we do something tangible to improve the current state of affairs, or we need to just accept the fact that things are not likely to change anytime soon.

In any event, slandering an entire community, whether it be a community of teachers or the community at-large, by calling it racist in an effort to deflect criticism from oneself for why any real progress in this regard has been so elusive is just too easy.

Enough with the excuses. Especially that one. Try something different.

Chris Roemer writes from Finksburg.

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