Saturday, February 10, 2007

In response to 'Schools low on minority teachers'

Warren County, Ohio's local community paper, The Pulse-Journal, recently reported on what the staff writer, Megan Gildown, described as a "problem": 'Schools low on minority teachers, Half of counties' districts have no minority teachers; Mason has most with 16' by Megan Gildow:
Four of the county's eight school districts have no minority teachers on staff, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

It's not a new problem — 10 years ago, five districts had no minorities on staff, the ODE reports. But as student populations become more diverse, school officials are more aware of the need for a change.


"As our student population becomes more diverse, we would like to see our staffing reflect that also," said Little Miami's Director of Administrative Services Pat Dubbs. Little Miami is one of the districts, along with Carlisle, Wayne and Springboro, whose teaching staffs have no minorities.

Lebanon. Franklin and Kings each have one minority teacher, and Mason has 16, according to the ODE.

Those numbers differ greatly from the student population. In most Warren County school districts, two to six percent of the students are black, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander, Multiracial or American Indian or Alaskan Native — the five minority categories the ODE reports.

The lack of representation is common, especially for rural districts, said Frank Schiraldi, chair of the department of professional education at Central State University, one of Ohio's historically black universities.

Minority educators tend to prefer urban or inner-city districts, because the student population is more diverse and they prefer to return to a atmosphere they are familiar with, he said. He also cited higher salaries in urban districts as a factor.

Cincinnati and Columbus public schools have higher average teacher salaries than any Warren County district, according to the ODE. Salaries at Dayton, Middletown and Hamilton schools are comparable to most local districts at around $50,000.

"The notion of diversity, especially as our nation and our state become increasingly diverse, becomes very important," Schiraldi said. "Diversity needs to be viewed as an asset, not a problem."

Having a more diverse staff can be beneficial for minority and white students, he said.

"It is good to see people with similar demographics who are in successful positions who can serve as role models," Schiraldi said. "Rural districts very frequently have far more homogeneous populations, as well. That's just the nature of those communities.

"It is very important that people grow up with first-hand interactions with people from other races and other cultures. The more diversity, the richer one's learning experiences."

Creating richer experiences

School officials say that they are considering ways to attract more minority candidates to positions.

For example, Lebanon City Schools, which last year formed a committee to look at the issue, has studied other district's efforts to try to find successful methods for recruiting.

"It's not that we don't want to have diversity," said Dubbs. "It just seems that when we have our applicant pool, we don't have very many minorities."

Mason City Schools works with the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati and two predominately black colleges, Central State and Wilberforce universities, to create a larger pool of minority applicants, said Craig Ullery, director of human resources. They are also working on a method to attract candidates who are willing to relocate from historically black institutions in the southern part of the country.

"All school districts are competing for the same small pool of candidates," he said, adding that all candidates undergo the same interview process.

These options have worked successfully for Mason schools, and may be solutions other districts look at in the future, officials said.
The following is a response submitted to the paper's editor:
Ms. Gildow’s article reported on the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) statistics claiming that four of Warren County’s school districts have no minority teachers on staff. She then goes on to state, “It’s not a new problem – 10 years ago five districts had no minorities on staff, the ODE reports.”

The real ‘problem’ is that the ODE disregards Dr. Martin Luther King’s counsel to judge everyone, including teachers, by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. The ODE holds on to a social definition of ‘race’ that is not supported by science. It should carefully study the American Anthropological Association statement on “Race” ( as it formulates its policies:

"In the United States both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences. With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups.”

The only 'race' we have is the hueman race, if you allow the pun. Many have historically, and to this day, acted on perceived differences in our shared humanity. Were that not the case, Dr. King would not have eloquently shared his dream.

How do we, the stewards of King’s vision, make it a reality? Continuing to gauge ourselves by statistics founded on a false premise is not the answer. We should instead look to someone that influenced Dr. King's philosophy. Mahatma Gandhi rightly noted, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

If you find yourself an advocate for the removal of 'race' in public demographics (county school makeup or otherwise), you should also remove it from your personal life as well. Consistency and ‘practicing what you preach’ would be in keeping with Gandhi's guidance.

More to the point: One of the most personal decisions we make as individuals is selecting a spouse and mate. It would be hypocritical to argue against the public misconceptions of 'race' only to have it influence the private, loving union we make with another human. If 'race' really doesn't exist, then it doesn't exist in any context. This philosophy is the ultimate fulfillment of a dream worth fulfilling.


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