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Schools struggle to hire minorities

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By Nathan L. McBroom

Although 26 percent of the students in the Shelby County public school system are from an ethnic minority, only 5 percent of the education positions in the district are filled by minorities, according to a recent report.

The district's annual affirmative action report, which was released earlier this month, showed that 95 percent of the district's certified positions are held by Caucasians. Certified positions include classroom teachers, principals and administrators. Only seven out of the 510 certified positions in the county are held by minority males. There are 20 minority females in certified positions across the district. The majority of the positions, 78 percent, are held by Caucasian females.

Barbra Allan, director of personnel and administration, said the district will use the statistics to help guide their recruiting and hiring practices.

She said the district is in need of more minority teachers and is actively seeking them out. Allan said that along with recruiting at local universities, the district works with the state Department of Education to get additional qualified minority applicants.

"While we are recruiting we are looking for minority teachers as well," she said.

In recent years the school system has seen Hispanic students grow to become the largest minority with 790 students.

Allan said that because of the growth in this segment of the student population, additional Hispanic teachers are also needed.

"We are sorely in need of Hispanics, but there just are not many applicants," she said.

After the district receives the applications, they are sent to each school's Site-based Decision-making Council for review of positions that are open.

Shelby County high school principal Gary Kidwell said that although having a diverse teaching staff is important, the school's primary concern is hiring qualified teachers.

"Yes, we do indeed look for minority candidates, but we are also concerned that they are qualified for the job," he said. "First and foremost we want to find the best teachers we can find."

Kidwell said the school hopes to hire more minority teachers.

"In a perfect world, we would love to have a perfect ratio between our student body and our staff," he said.

Albert Jordan, who teaches health at the high school, is one of the seven certified minority male employees in the district. Jordan said that as an elementary school student, he had an influential black teacher who inspired him to learn. He said being an inspiration to his students is the reason he teaches.

"When I see the results on the tests, that's a great thing," he said. "I hope that I have influenced some of them."

Artavia Acklin, a teacher at Clear Creek, said the reason that she is a teacher today is because in second grade at Southside Elementary her teacher, Minnie Dale, made her believe that she could achieve.

"I definitely looked at her as an intelligent black woman who would not let me give anything less than my best and was a loving mother to me," she said.

Acklin, who now teaches with Dale at Clear Creek, said that she now hopes to be an inspiration to her children as Dale was to her.

"I need to be here because we still have a lot of kids falling through the cracks," she said. "I want to be there for them just like Minnie Dale was there for me."