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Editorial: Fix Carroll County's reputation among minorities

You would expect the workforce of Carroll County Public Schools to be reflective of the demographics of the community. So it's not that surprising to learn that the percentage of nonwhite county school system employees is just 4 percent, whereas the county's make-up as a whole has a minority population of 8.2 percent.

But the real disappointment in that number comes from what school system officials say is a reputation that Carroll County is having a hard time shaking beyond its borders — the county isn't friendly to minorities. While we don't think that's inherently true, perception can oftentimes become reality. And because of that perception, some teachers won't even consider applying to work here.

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It also underscores a bigger problem that Carroll's reputation might be a contributing factor for stagnating growth here versus surrounding counties.

Unfortunately, some elected leaders and residents haven't done much to change that perception and, in fact, may have compounded the problem with some recent actions.

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If you recall, it was just a few years ago that the county commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance that designated English as the official language of Carroll government. The ordinance actually did very little to change the way the county does business, but the commissioners at the time made a point that people needed to assimilate to the American way of life and learn the language when defending the decision.

Some people still remember when the Klu Klux Klan was active in the county. During a discussion of the diversity numbers at last week's school board meeting, BOE President Jim Doolan recalled finding invitations to KKK meetings on his car windshield when he started teaching here more than three decades ago.

Sadly, this is the extent to which many nonresidents know and understand Carroll County. If you're a minority, these don't come across as the actions of a place that is welcoming to all. They don't see the good things happening in the county every day; how its community members support one another regardless of race or creed.

There are a number of other reasons people might not want to come to Carroll County to teach, not the least of which is a starting salary that is the lowest in the state. Government officials have made clear they want to fix that (although as of this writing, negotiations between the teacher's union and the school system seem to have stalled), but we'd also like to see officials take a proactive approach to let people outside the county know what a great place Carroll is to live regardless of race, religion or ethnic background.

Fixing Carroll's perceived reputation won't just allow the county to hire more minority teachers, it also allows the community to grow, which in turn means more businesses, a larger tax base and perhaps a reversal of declining school enrollment trends.

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