A newly formed committee of black business and civic leaders wants C. Berry Carter II, the county school superintendent, to hire a black, preferably male, to fill his old job of deputy superintendent.
"We've got to give a signal to those already in the system that there is room at the top," said committee member the Rev. Ricky Spaine, yesterday. "And an African-American male in a top position can do that."
In a news conference at Mt. Olive A.M.E. Church in Annapolis, committee members said they would meet with Mr. Carter next Friday to lobby for a black deputy superintendent and to discuss other issues.
The members said they also are concerned about inordinately high suspension and expulsion rates for black students and a lack of black students in gifted and talented programs. In addition, they hope to convince school officials to increase their use of minority contractors.
"My husband is in the contracting business," said Beth Eubanks, a committee member. "He knows the gentleman who runs the largest African-American asbestos removal company in the state. He's 15 miles down the road and he knew nothing about the asbestos removal projects in the school system. How is that possible?"
Mrs. Eubanks complained bitterly that a teacher of her 15-year-old son called her to talk about a discipline problem instead of the youth's low Spanish-class grade.
"Why is it she was calling me about a discipline problem and not about the D?," she asked. "It's all about expectations."
A black, male deputy superintendent could help bridge the gap between black, male students and school officials "who have no idea what these students are dealing with," Mrs. Eubanks argued.
Black women have been included in the system, Mr. Spaine added. "But we're having a problem with black males. We use terms like endangered species all the time. Now, what are we going to do to correct that?" he asked.
"The school system has got to give a signal to the kids . . that they really care about them."
One way to do that, committee members said, is to try to increase the number of black students in gifted and talented programs.
D. Delores Chambers, former principal of Central Middle School, said many black students are overlooked for gifted and talented classes because of low teacher expectations and the failure to recognize abilities because of differing backgrounds.
"I know of many graduates of the school system who were told they could not achieve, they could not go to college," Mrs. Chambers said. "Some of them are now assistant state's VTC attorneys, lawyers, professionals."
Committee members also worried about statistics that show that black students are suspended or expelled at disproportionate rates.
Orlie Reid, an Annapolis psychotherapist said that 28 percent of the students suspended from county schools during the 1989-1990 school year were black. Yet blacks make up only 12 percent of the total student population of 63,000.
"This is not acceptable," Mr. Reid complained. "We've got to take a position to stop that, because a lot of our kids are being hurt in the process."
Committee members said they would provide their own support by installing toll free numbers for students to call whenever they feel they are having problems.
But they also asked the school system for help. Mr. Reid said school officials must involve more educators who understand the "special problems" black students brink to school and provide more training for teachers and support services for students.