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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Data: Minority teacher/student gap exists

Monday, December 9, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Recent data reveal that there are lower percentages of minority teachers than minority students in area school systems, and some officials would like to see more done to change that.

At the Henry County School Board’s meeting on Aug. 8, the Rev. Thurman Echols, pastor of Moral Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Axton, cited the need for more minority teachers and administrators.

Christy Landon, director of human resources for Henry County Schools, presented the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) data at the school board meeting Nov. 7. But she did not present local numbers.

In the Henry County Schools, the data show:

• 86.3 percent of the full-time teachers were white (452 people) and 60.74 percent of its students were white (4,487 people);

• 12.4 percent of the full-time teachers were black (65 people) and 21.17 percent of its students were black (1,564 people);

• 0.8 percent of the full-time teachers were Hispanic (four people) and 11.9 percent of its students were Hispanic (879 people).

Those numbers are based on reports from the school division: one dated Nov. 28, 2012, with employee demographic information and one as of Nov. 8, 2013, with student demographic information.

Asked recently to address the county figures, Echols said, “The statistics speak for themselves.” In some categories, he said, “The (job) statistics don’t reflect the (minority student) population. I think there is room for improvement.”

His main concern is to increase and retain minority teachers, he said. But he also expressed concern about some job categories in which there were no black employees. They include psychological (eight employees) and librarian/audiovisual staff (14 employees).

Echols said he has made suggestions to school division officials about how to try to recruit more minority educators, such as contacting more historically black colleges and universities; working with the ministerial association, sororities, fraternities and other organizations in the community; and offering financial incentives, such as college financial assistance in exchange for teaching for Henry County Schools for a certain number of years.

“There aren’t a lot of young people going into education degrees, and those who are, (urban areas like) Northern Virginia and Tidewater are getting (most of) these students because they have more to offer,” Echols said. “You have to do something to motivate them to want to come back to Martinsville and Henry County.”

Iriswood District school board member Curtis Millner Sr. also has cited the need to hire more minority teachers and administrators.

Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton stated: “Ultimately, our goal as a school system is to hire the most qualified candidates for available positions. In addition, we want to increase diversity as a part of our ongoing efforts to create a work force that reflects the demographics of the students we serve. As stated during the recent School Board work session, we are focusing on increasing diversity among our teaching ranks. However, we know that all employees serve as positive role models for our students, so we must continue to work toward increasing diversity for all other job classes as well.”

In Martinsville Schools, 81.9 percent of the 160 full-time classroom teachers in the school division were white (131 people), 17.5 percent were black (28 people), and there was one American Indian or Alaskan Native teacher (0.6 percent).

Fifty-eight percent of the students were black (1,310 people); 29.2 percent white (660 people); 8.5 percent Hispanic (191 people); 2.9 percent two or more races (65 people); 1.1 percent Asian (25 people); 0.354 percent American Indian (eight people).

That’s based on employment data from a “snapshot” report for Oct. 8, 2012, for personnel, and on student demographic information for fall 2013-14, that the school division supplied.

Echols also has raised his concerns about the issue with the city school board.

Asked about the city statistics, Echols said that he was concerned most about the statistic that 58 percent of students were black, but 17.5 percent of classroom teachers were black. “I think there should be African American teachers to represent the demographic population. ... I’m not so much concerned with some of the areas as I am with teachers.”

Officials with the Martinsville School Division could not be reached for comment on the figures.

The Martinsville School Board is scheduled to receive a Minority Recruitment Task Force Report at its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in the Municipal Building.

By way of comparison, 2010-11 statistics from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) dealing with race/ethnicity of Virginia public schools students and instructional personnel (excluding principals and assistant principals) were: whites — 54.1 percent of students and 83.4 percent of teachers; blacks — 24.1 percent of students and 12.8 percent of teachers; Hispanics — 11.4 percent of students and 1.9 percent of teachers; Asians — 5.9 percent of students and 1.5 percent of teachers; other — 4.5 percent of students and 0.4 percent of teachers.


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