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Harford schools made missteps in demoting black administrators and missed opportunities to correct error | COMMENTARY

Immediately visible to a student’s parents are a school’s ethnic and gender demographics, followed by cultural markers, such as dress, religious or political apparel, and hair styles. Diversity, equity and inclusion in an educational setting denote the acceptance of varied ideas and existences other than one’s own. Families appreciate a school administrator who reflects their community.

African-American administrators and teachers provide indispensable and rewarding benefits to a school’s community, inspire teachers and students alike, and provide reassurance to parents. However, several missteps by Harford County Public Schools significantly degraded the ranks of African-American assistant principals in the 2020-21 school year and the benefits they offered.

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The demotion of four highly-qualified assistant principals at the close of the 2018-2019 school year (ostensibly due to a reduction in staff from an exhausted budget), diminished their influence. Despite subsequent opportunities to correct this subjective error, no attempt has been made by HCPS Superintendent Sean Bulson to rehire these four women, who have over 50 years of combined experience. This outright dismissal clearly shows that there continues to be no credible effort to focus on the development of culturally proficient administrators, as regulated in the Maryland State Department of Education’s “Education That is Multicultural” regulations.

Superintendent Bulson’s complicit failure to ensure diverse management in our public schools continues, because there was a chance to remediate the problem during the last school year. In fact, instead of rectifying the egregious dismissal, he replaced the experienced administrators with assistant principals of significantly less or no experience.

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The HCPS’ historical reluctance to integrate our schools continues to influence decision-makers. There remains an established practice of using subjective, and, perhaps, racially biased rationale to weed out educators and administrators of African-American descent. While the 2019-2020 budget had its challenges, giving complete autonomy to principals to dismiss or downgrade highly qualified assistant principals without considering their qualifications, contradicts HCPS’ publicly expressed desire to diversify schools. Furthermore, failure to review their performance evaluations, to consider the promise of their school leadership, or to contemplate their inherent value as a reflection of the community is and was an insult to HCPS students, parents, and to the community as a whole. A growing number of parents see assistant principals as administrators who contribute to the fair implementation of disciplinary policies and relevant ideas in training teachers. The sentiment of these parents underscores an authentic approach to valuing the fullness of education.

So, what does all this mean, and what can the community do about it? Let’s alter the status quo. Let’s demand that common sense be implemented in selecting, maintaining, and considering school administrators. Let’s advocate for objective merit and diversity, equity, and inclusion, bringing value to a quality education. Let’s ensure a fair practice of retaining African-Americans in leadership positions at HCPS, because retention is just as important as hiring.

Visit our Facebook page Justicefor4HCPS. Team with us to bring justice to these administrators, fairness to our students, comfort to our parents, and integrity to the community. Participate in our virtual Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, Oct. 15, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Visit Facebook to register for the free Zoom webinar or visit and follow our Twitter page @Justicefor4HCPS. You may also email us at justiceforthe4@gmail.com. March with us on Monday, Oct. 26 at the Harford County Public Schools' central office, located at 102 S. Hickory Ave. in Bel Air. Please follow Facebook and Twitter for more specific plans and updates about this rally.

#BlackAdministratorsMatter

James Thronton and Casandra Beverley are former members of the Harford County Public Schools Board of Education.

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