SOUNDOFF: Schools failing in minority hiring

In response to your front-page article entitled “Minority Report,” (News-Times, Sept. 27) I am providing an analysis of some of the facts surrounding the level of diversity of the Oak Harbor School District work force. Specifically, the number of minority teachers in the educational system has been a long-standing major concern for the members of the minority community.

In reading the recent article, I found myself angrily recalling the past trying times and efforts spent in drafting the original Affirmation Action Plan (AAP). During the 1968-70 time frame, I was a member of the committee that drafted the plan per Washington state guidelines. At that time, quotas were established for three minority teachers — two black and one of Spanish descent.

At this point in time, we should be at a stage in the overall strategic planning to “hire the best” most qualified regardless of who they are. However, we are not. This means 35 years have now passed. By failing to progress beyond the minimum requirements, the school system has failed us as a community.

In actual practice, the plans for hiring should be at the point that the AAP and quotas are no longer the main focal point of interest but serve in the background as a minimum requirement. The actual number of persons hired should be now “mirroring the local population.”

Previous attempts to remedy the problems in both the lower and higher levels of the regional educational systems failed. Practices of the managements have not allowed for the institution of new approaches when it comes to the minorities. The system is still stuck in the mud with continued stereotyping as a main factor. Neither the minority teachers nor students should have to deal with less than equal and fair treatment. Negative practices create the same issues of the past and are just as non-productive. For the system, being forced to deal with issues surrounding the AAP establishes unwarranted negative stigmas onto the efforts of providing a fair and equitable education for all students.

The minority teachers do not need to be put into special categories that invite the usage of special rules beyond those applied to other applicants. To do so invites the continued usage of stereotyping and negative attitudes toward minorities and the teachers involved. They can stand on their own in a system which practices fairness for all. You will find them rating along with their counterparts.

What is needed, is to allow the minorities full acceptance and access into the job market without pity and be offered the same economic opportunities. The hiring teams for the school district do not need to go to all black colleges or any other minority educational institution to recruit. They need to deal fairly with those who apply their own accord. It makes good business sense.

Long overdue is the incorporation of practices that aid us in getting the most for our personal investments into our community assets. Take the measures that focus on providing top-quality educational opportunities for all. Unknown to most people, the effects of discriminatory practices rub off. In a long run, all of our children are hurt by voids created from the practices involved. The result is the delivery of lower level educational opportunities.

As a community, we need to demand and work toward a system that actually takes the higher ground. In the final analysis, the district’s goals should be to push the usage of the AAP into the background. Focus should be on hiring the best with the AAP serving as a minimum requirement. This move will eliminate the dependence upon the usage of the Affirmative Action Plan in the long-term. Make sure that the actual applications of hiring practices are fair. The rest will take care of itself. Every person should stand alone on his or her own.

I am a long-time resident of Oak Harbor. I have raised my family here. I am now a grandfather and godfather many times over. I am a minority, my experience includes having been involved and working on the building blocks of this community in one fashion or another. Most people that know me know that I do not spend my time with idle talk.

Lionel Peoples, Sr. lives in Oak Harbor.

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