01/14/07 — Minority hiring question raised at Duplin Board meeting

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Minority hiring question raised at Duplin Board meeting

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 14, 2007 10:32 AM

The issue of minority hiring flared up again at the Duplin County Board of Education meeting last week, this time when members were asked to approve several mid-year hires.

The problem, board member Willie Gillespie said, is that minority teachers aren't being hired at those schools identified as lacking in minority presence.

"They (the principals) are expected to hire minority teachers to ensure there's a minority presence in the schools. I think a message needs to be sent to those principals," he said, declining to publicly name the schools he was concerned about.

However, associate superintendent of personnel and support services Dr. Candace Turk said principals are getting that message.

"I will tell you that they (minorities) are being considered and they are being interviewed," she said. "I think principals are trying to find the best-qualified teachers for their schools.

"They do need to make more effort to hire minorities, but at this point in time it's difficult to hire any teachers."

Superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby reassured the board that minority hiring efforts are under way.

"It is an expectation. Principals and assistant principals are fully aware it is expected that we look as closely as we can at minority candidates."

But, the school board has no firm policy on hiring minorities.

"There isn't one (policy) that specifies we have to hire a quota," Ms. Turk said.

Having a teacher population that mirrors the student population is simply a goal, she said. One that a minority recruitment and retention committee has been charged with meeting.

"Goals are things you strive to do. Some schools are significantly less reflective of what their students look like," Ms. Turk said. "The priority is still to have the best, most-qualified teachers, not just because of the color of their skin or race."

In Duplin County, of the 9,010 students, 42 percent are white, 33 percent are black and 25 percent fall into the "other" category.

Of the 647 teachers, 81 percent are white, 15 percent are black and 4 percent are "other."

Unfortunately, Ms. Turk continued, those discrepancies are going to be hard to improve.

Each year, North Carolina's 119 school systems hire about 10,000 teachers.

On average, the state's colleges produce only 3,100 qualified teachers. Of those, only 2,200 actually teach. And, of those, only 1,400 are still teachers within three years.

In the 2004-05 school year, of the 7,470 students in undergraduate education programs in North Carolina, only 845 were minorities.

Assuming that at best, 70 percent of those minority students actually become teachers, Ms. Turk said, "you may be lucky to split minorities across the state, one or two per county."

And that's not even factoring in the fact that other counties can afford to pay higher teacher supplements than Duplin. Those supplements are the amount school systems pay their teachers above the state-mandated scale.

Just this year, with a one-time allocation from the county commissioners, the school system was able to raise those supplements to the state average, but there's no guarantee that money will be there for the 2007-08 fiscal year.

That's why, Ms. Turk said, they're also trying to develop other strategies.

"One of our major goals is to grow our own and look at ways we can encourage our students to go into teaching (and come back to Duplin County)," Ms. Turk said.