Protesters urge Indian River to hire minority educators

by Michael Short on September 30, 2010

By Michael Short

A group of protesters gathered outside Indian River High School on Tuesday, Sept. 28 to urge the Indian River School District to hire more minority educators.

The school district held a school board meeting at the high school that night.  Local churches helped to organize the protest outside the school, but no one from the group spoke to the school board during Tuesday’s meeting.

About two dozen people showed up Tuesday night, saying the district needs to hire more minority teachers to help bridge gaps in academic achievement. United Methodist Pastor Claudia Waters, who helped organize the protest, said “we are trying to close the achievement gap.”

She said Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting has since called her and wants to speak with her about the concerns. She said that they have gone before the school board previously, but “it’s like they don’t hear us.”

Waters said that having more minority teachers would increase diversity and be beneficial to student of all races. She said that in some cases, the district has not re-hired quality minority educators. “You really do need to take a look at your hiring and firing practices,” she said.

The Delaware State website lists the Indian River School District as having 598 teachers and 1,100 total employees. Of that total, 80 employees are listed as African-American.  Of teachers, a total of 14 are  listed as African-American, six are Hispanic and one is American Indian.

Minority educators have long been seen as needed positive role models for students. While educators have often struggled to attract more minority educators, the need for male minority teachers is considered especially great.

Some have said that low pay prevents more minorities from applying for teaching positions. Others have said that the teaching profession is not as highly respected as it once was, which means fewer people seek teaching jobs.

“When you have a role model . . . children will begin to look at these role models and feel I can put my best foot forward,” she said.

School Board President Charles Bireley said that when a person applies to the school district, the district is not allowed to ask questions like a person’s age or race. We don’t know if they are “black, white, green or pink,” he said.

“The policy of the district is to hire the most qualified people we can” with “no reference to color,” he said.

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