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.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hiring the Best, Most Qualified Candidates Regardless of Race is the Right Thing to Do, Part I

Recently the Escambia County School District has come under fire for not hiring enough administrative, professional, and instructional employees that are ethnic minorities.  I have seen this manifest itself as our district, for two years running, not having ANY Hispanic administrators---none, nada.  For two years running I have asked the EEOC director about this apparently severe underrepresentation—I mean Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic minority in our nation and they comprise roughly 5% of our student population—yet we have [ZERO] “0” administrators of Hispanic origin.  If a conversation were to be had about underrepresentation, I think a valid first priority would/should be to find a way to recruit and hire more Hispanic employees.  My questions about these disparities apparently fall on deaf ears as the situation does not change.    And the local press ignores this relevant issue.  
Asians represent a substantial part of our students on the west side—and yet we continue to have very few employees of Asian descent.  This situation goes along un-challenged and ignored.  Nobody wants to talk about Asian employees or Asian student achievement—just subjects not to be discussed, I suppose.  Nope-- Instead, we are taken to task by the weekly tabloid on our low numbers of African-American employees specifically.   In what seems to be a never-ending barrage of accusations and sinister allegations from one minor local weekly publication in particular,

the fact that we do not, as a percentage of employees relative to the county population percentages, employ a greater number of selected minorities (African-Americans), this makes us automatic failures.  
We should be more like Gadsden County, this tabloid paper asserts!  Gadsden County, Really? ? Gadsden County has the distinction of being one of the most challenged public school districts in the state of Florida.  Nowhere near the top of the list of 67 Counties in any academic category.  To be fair, though--Gadsden County faces some tough issues.  They have a high number of free and reduced lunch students, as does Escambia County.   And they are a rural district, as is the upper part of Escambia County.  The similarities end there, though...   In the last seven years, Gadsden county schools have clocked district grades as follows:  two D’s, an F, and four C’s.  Not that good.   As a matter of fact, in 2006, our supposedly “horrible” Escambia County public school district notched a respectable “B” letter grade from Tallahassee—while at the same time Gadsden County was an “F” rated school district,  stuck in a rut.  But we’re supposedly failures because we are not hiring like Gadsden is doing?  I’m not saying these things about Gadsden County Schools to be unkind or mean spirited;  Rather, I’m attempting to point out the failed logic coming from this one local paper with respect to their criticisms of our district.  It really is as simple as this:  Suppose this is a 100 Meter Dash, and Escambia came in 3rd  and Gadsden came in 8th— yet the tabloid tells us we should be more like Gadsden because Gadsden’s form, stride,  and technique is better.  The 3rd place finisher should be more like the 8th place runner??!!??   What????  Yeah-that’s some really hazy logic that makes no sense whatsoever.   
Here is a real news flash for the Pensacola Tabloid-- If Gadsden’s model of hiring is supposed to be the gold standard—that’s not a standard as a policymaker and a taxpayer that I want to replicate for my constituents, okay. 

But it does not end here, though.  Now, this same anti-Escambia County School District publication is lambasting us because at a recent meeting seven new administrative positions were filled and none of the hires were African-American.  This is somehow to be construed as a terrible turn of events.  We must be absolute failures, according to this paper.
My question is this—what if no qualified African Americans applied for these jobs?  What if the African Americans that did apply were not as well qualified as the eventual selectees?  Should we hire substandard employees and discriminate against better qualified candidates in an attempt to simply have more African-American employees?  I say no way!  I could not justify that sort of logic.  And, as a practical matter, such action would fly in the face of one of our bedrock school board policies, from School Board Administrative Policy 1.17, Nondiscrimination:
“The board does not unlawfully discriminate against any person on the basis of gender, age, race, religious creed, color, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or disability in the educational programs or activities which it operates or in the employment of personnel and does not tolerate such discrimination”
 I have said it in meetings before and I’ll say it again here—we should always strive to hire the most well qualified employees that are available---REGARDLESS OF RACE.  Although the school board only approves recommended hires, with the exception of School Board Secretary and Attorney, we do have a say in the process.  We, as a legislative body, set policy that guides the hiring and we create and delete positions.   But the Superintendent and his staff actually recruit, interview, and eventually hire the roughly 6500 district employees.  With this said, if I am ever told of blatant and legitimate discrimination against anyone by this district, I’ll never hesitate to ask questions and get answers, that is a fact.  But I will not genuflect in apology or shame  to a weekly tabloid that, once again, has a skewed vision of reality and an assessment of this situation that is badly wrong.    

1 comment:

Vicky Krug said...

Dealing with a situation in my workplace re: diversity, hiring practices and qualifications. Thank you for your blog; you provided me with language and ideas to express in my situation.