After setting the goal of encouraging more minority teachers to be hired in public schools, several people gathered Tuesday to address the big question: How?
The concern raised by the Jacksonville Chapter of the NAACP is that there is a 19.2 percent minority population among students in Jacksonville School District 117 while there are only three minority teachers out of a staff of about 242.
The group welcomed about 25 people to a brainstorming session at Mt. Emory Baptist to gather input into how the school district can be encouraged to improve that under-representation.
Among ideas floated were encouraging the district to do more recruiting, especially by targeting predominantly black colleges, and to maintain an active recruiting program for minorities.
The group also hoped to collect data from the school district — perhaps going back several years — to see how much the district has tried to interview, hire and retain minority teachers.
Discussion also focused on the challenges the group will face in the effort. Jacksonville community member Everick Turner said one of the major issues will be in working with the school administration and board of education.
“The powers that be, the ones who can bring about changes, who do the hiring, don’t really see it as a problem,” he said. “If you don’t see it as a problem, you aren’t going to address the issue.”
Jacksonville NAACP Secretary Doris Robinson said that another challenge that the group faces is that minority professionals — not only teachers — are unlikely to want to move into or stay in a community with a low number of minority professionals.
School Superintendent Steve Ptacek said last week that he was in favor of hiring more minorities but that the pool of qualified candidates — regardless of race — was diminishing.
Doris Robinson said the group spoke to two candidates who interviewed at the Jacksonville district and were not offered jobs. Though she said they wished to remain anonymous, she said they went on to get teaching positions elsewhere.
Jacksonville NAACP President Eric Robinson said the under-representation of minorities has been an “injustice” that has been going on for the past 10 years.
“I’m here to tell you that black qualified teachers have applied and were not hired,” he said. “If anyone tells you any different — that they did not apply — is not being truthful to you.”
Jackie Rogers, of Mt. Emory Baptist, said he believed it would take putting constant pressure on the school district to comply with affirmative action laws.
Doris Robinson told the group that it has considered pursuing a lawsuit as a possible option.
Cody Bozarth can be reached at (217) 245-6121, ext. 1223, or on Twitter @JCnews_Cody.