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Our View: CCPS data on minority staffing, personal anecdotes ‘very disheartening’

Looking at the numbers regarding Carroll County Public Schools’ minority hiring and retention efforts during the February meeting of the Board of Education revealed, as Director of Human Services Chantress Baptist put it, “very disheartening information,” such as the fact that CCPS has four fewer minority teachers this year than last.

Listening to Kimani Jones, an assistant principal at Westminster High School, discuss some of his experiences within the school system was even more disheartening. But it also gave some insight into why Carroll has such a difficult time finding and keeping minority staff members, particularly teachers.

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Jones told the BOE during the Feb. 12 meeting about some of the things students have said and done, such as using the term “colored,” drawing the Confederate flag on assignments and misspelling the country of Niger “with a wink and a smile.” He also talked about having to provide more identification than some of his colleagues to enter facilities and recalled times when law enforcement had followed him as he was leaving a school after hours and then asked others what he had been doing there.

Maybe more surprising, though, is what he has had to endure in the teachers’ lounge or around the water cooler. He said when he was a social studies teacher within CCPS, he had to explain the history of blackface to his colleagues and that there were times he would hear some comments and jokes being made pertaining to race that made him uncomfortable. Jones said, the way he looks at it, when something like this happens it is “a teachable moment.”

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Why one teacher should have to have teachable moments with other teachers is certainly a fair question. As is, If this is the type of situation minority staffers come into when taking a job with CCPS, are the numbers really all that surprising?

According to CCPS data, its percentage of minority staff members is about 4%. The Maryland average is about 28%.

Going into this school year, 12 of Carroll’s total new hires were minorities. In terms of educators, out of 139 hired, only five were minorities — three teachers and two administrators. But, the data showed, Carroll lost 13 minority staff members after last year, including seven teachers.

Research bears out that teachers tend to see students of different races as having more behavioral issues and less potential for academic success than same-race students.

“This trend has remained constant for the past few years,” Baptist said. “It continues to be a struggle to move the needle, when we lose as many as we attract.”

Baptist pointed to the minority educator hiring event CCPS will be hosting March 31 from 2-6 p.m. Activities will include a “getting to know CCPS” presentation and on-the-spot interviews. It’s the first time the school system has held such an event, but it’s a continuation of initiatives started in recent years as CCPS has made minority hiring and retention a stated priority.

Despite such efforts, the statistics are what they are, and Carroll lost four more minority teachers than it was able to attract this year.

“Very disappointing given the focus we’re trying to put on it,” BOE President Donna Sivigny said.

Sivigny and Superintendent Steve Lockard both called the experiences Jones described as unacceptable. Lockard pointed out how what Jones endured contributes to the numbers that were shared.

“It has to change or our data is never going to change,” Lockard said. “We need to impact that every way we can, anyway we can.”

Indeed. It’s not only what happens within the walls of the school buildings, though. Remember, Jones talked about the scrutiny he faced from outside sources. Baptist shared stories of former employees who said discrimination made it harder for them just to get gas.

Certainly, CCPS bears significant responsibility for its minority hiring and retention numbers and, as Sivigny said, they “need to do better.” But so does the community at-large.

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