Panel seeks more minority applicants

Published 9:32 pm Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Beaufort County Schools Minority Hiring Practices Committee met this week to review school demographics and the district’s hiring practices.
Comprised of school employees, board of education members and community members, the committee’s meetings are held monthly.
Assistant Superintendent John Conway provided a breakdown of the demographics of each school after committee members requested the information at a previous meeting.
Of the district’s 506 teachers, about 10 percent are minorities. Committee member Joneice Carroll pointed out that three of the schools, Northside High School, Beaufort County Early College High School and Bath Elementary School, had no minority teachers.
“We have schools that are 30-percent minority and no minority teachers,” Carroll said.
Committee member Valerie Quinn said it is unacceptable that Northside has no minority teachers. She suggested the district contact Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in low-income communities.
“I think the district has to go outside the box. The top minorities are highly recruited,” Quinn said.
Conway said the program was not available in this area when he inquired a few years ago, but he would look into it again.
Members asked Conway to go over the hiring process. He said he asks the school to list the skills they want the new teacher or principal to have, then he drafts an ad that is posted for 10 days.
A hiring committee that includes at least one minority is formed. The committee selects seven or eight candidates from the applications received.
That same committee interviews the candidates and makes a recommendation to Superintendent Don Phipps, who has the deciding vote if it comes down to two candidates.
“And we don’t know what the person looks like until they walk through that door,” Phipps said.
A committee member said residents in Chocowinity had complained when the primary school, which has two minority teachers, had openings that did not go to minorities.
“I think when that two goes to three, we should not pat ourselves on the back if we haven’t got the best teacher,” Phipps said.
In order to increase the odds of hiring a minority teacher, more minority applicants need to be in the application pool.
Phipps suggested looking beyond East Carolina University, developing relationships with traditionally black colleges and going to their job fairs.
Conway said, budget permitting, he visits North Carolina schools’ job fairs but has not been able to visit outside the state.
He works with education scholarship and fellowship committees to develop relationships with the scholars and fellows. Conway also invites students to visit the schools.
“I spend a lot of time trying to work with the Elizabeth City (State University) people. Like I always say, if I could get them to come for an internship, I know I could get them. That is half the battle,” Conway said.
ECSU is a traditionally black university.
He said he was open to any additional suggestions members had.
The committee will meet again Dec. 4.