I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Inequity in Addressing Inequity? It looks that Way to Me

Florida Educational Equity Report

Escambia County School District

2008-2009 Update

This lengthy document is on the agenda for approval by the Board at the July 21, 2009 regular meeting. As I read the document in the board’s agenda back-up, several issues catch my attention. One thing that I’m concerned about is the apparent inequity between girls and boys sports, with fewer girls participating. On a positive note, where inequity currently exists, a school by school plan is included in the report to address the inequity going forward.

Another interesting issue that the report highlights is that our staffing from the classroom teaching levels through the administrative levels seems to be out of balance with the demographic makeup of the district. Example, Whites make up 53% of the student population but 87% of district level administrative positions. Blacks make up 36% of the student population but only 13% of the district level administrative positions. Hispanics appear to be severely under-represented, comprising 3% of the student population, but with 0% Hispanic administrators (district and school level).

I have included the demographic make-up portion of the document here.

I believe that a diverse workplace is good, and I feel we need to do a better job of recruiting applicants of various ethnicities to apply for employment within our district. However, once a qualified pool of applicants has been identified, and once this pool has applied and been interviewed for positions with our district—at this point the very best candidate for the position needs to be hired. If the best candidate is an under represented minority, fantastic-but if not, the process does not need to be tinkered with further at this stage, in my opinion. We should be “colorblind” at the final hiring stage—picking the best qualified candidate regardless of ethnicity. Recent court decisions from around the nation and the Supreme Court's recent decision in Ricci v De Stephano illustrate this. I intend to discuss this topic in depth at the workshop tomorrow because I believe this to be a very important issue that needs to be addressed properly.

I have significant concerns about the proposed remedy regarding bringing our employee demographics more in line with our student demographics. In particular, this phrase from the report

“The district will implement a new procedure for the 2009-2010 academic year concerning annual contract non-renewal of un [under] represented classifications (minority) of instructional personnel. Principals will contact the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resource Services and the EEOC Coordinator to review all requests when minority instructional personnel are recommended for non-renewal”

This phrase is problematic for several reasons-chiefly in that it calls for unequal treatment of teachers ( annual contract teachers) who are not to be recommended for renewal. When a principal is considering non-renewing an annual contract teacher, this is a very important decision and I do not believe that the district ought to be making it more cumbersome for principals. Also, the step of having to call the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and the EEOC rep is tantamount to saying to a principal “if you want to let this person go, it’s going to be second guessed”. This same step will not be necessary if the same principal wants to let a non-minority go and therein lies the problem. Everyone needs to be treated EQUALLY.

Once an annual contract teacher completes the third year, that teacher then becomes a professional contract teacher, and termination for ineffectiveness becomes all but impossible. The state laws, union and district policies, collective bargaining agreements, etc. etc. essentially make terminating a tenured teacher impossible. For this reason, we need to let principals make good sound decisions when it comes time to renew or non-renew annual contract teachers—we do not need to add an additional hurdle for these principals to jump over to do what is so important and necessary—otherwise ineffective teachers may inadvertently get through this very important filter point, and the children will be the ones short-changed by this whole arrangement.

This proposed policy is dangerous, and invites potential litigation and I will advocate against it.

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