The school system lacks racial diversity among senior leaders

About 3% of Washington County public school leaders identified as people of color, while nearly 27% of the student population is black or Hispanic.

Of 228 administrators and supervisors, seven identified as non-white, a school district official said.

Of the 21,939 students attending public schools in Washington County, 3,201 are black and 2,667 are Hispanic/Latino.

As Washington County’s student populations become more diverse, school system leaders say they are working to hire more administrators who are people of color. Yet the vast majority are white, as are the seven elected members of the school board.

“WCPS values ​​a diverse workforce and makes recruiting people of color into all roles in the school system a priority,” Erin Anderson, the school district’s communications manager, said in an email. “These efforts are led by the human resources department and are supported by staff across the organization.”

By comparison, public schools in Washington County employ 1,889 teachers. Of these, 36 teachers say they are black or African American. Another 30 teachers report their race as Hispanic/Latino.

WCPS employees, including teachers and administrators, are not required to list their racial identity on their employment records, making precise workforce details unclear.

Among Anderson’s efforts in the school system include:

  • Marketing through strategic digital initiatives to people of color.
  • Expand the WCPS network by trying to recruit students and graduates from historically black colleges and universities.
  • Organize job fair “road shows” in which employment opportunities are presented to local schools and promoted to families and community members.
  • Reflect diversity in WCPS hiring promotions.
  • Develop an Equity and Excellence Supervisor position, which supports student and staff equity and diversity initiatives
  • Celebrating and recognizing cultural and ethnic uniqueness and achievements throughout the school system, such as Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month.
  • Encourage current staff to pursue other career opportunities Maryland is accelerating the education program and mentorship.

“WCPS is not alone in rising to the challenge of employing a diverse workforce,” Anderson said. “This is a common experience across the country for school systems large and small.

“It is essential that our school community and our wider Washington County community welcome and welcome people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, identities, orientations and life experiences to successfully recruit and retain a diverse workforce. in our schools and in other professions,” she says.

For reference, Washington County has a population of 154,705 people, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. Of that number, 82% are white, 12.5% ​​are black, 5.8% are Latino, 1.9% are Asians, 0.3% are American Indians and Alaska Natives, and 0.1% are Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. The Census Bureau states that 3.1% of the county’s population is of two or more races.

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Recruitment continues

“I can tell you in all sincerity that all members of the (school) board want to increase diversity in the school system,” said school board chair Melissa Williams. “It’s a problem in the state of Maryland and it’s a problem across the country.”

Williams said the school system is doing everything it can to attract more diverse leadership.

As an example, she said school system leaders have placed billboards advertising jobs with WCPS in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where the population is more diverse.

“We are doing everything we can, but it’s not an easy solution,” she said.

Rachel Kane-Kirkpatrick, president of the Washington County Association of Administrators and Supervisors, which represents administrators in the school system, said she has been involved in many efforts to attract more diverse leadership to WCPS.

She regularly visits historically black colleges and universities in an effort to recruit minority students with education degrees.

“We just don’t encourage candidates to apply,” she said. “We want the staff to reflect the community.”

Kane-Kirkpatrick said students also need to see not just administrators and supervisors, but all WCPS employees who look like them.

The school system is “actively recruiting all qualified individuals for various positions,” Linda Murray, a member of the Washington County Board of Education, said in an email. “The Human Resources department works diligently to advertise positions on bulletin boards, tractor trailers, college websites, etc. We always encourage people of all ethnicities to apply to our school system.”

It’s about hiring the best

School board member Michael Guessford said it was a matter of finding the most qualified candidate regardless of diversity issues, but he noted the school system was facing a shortage of staff across the board. areas of the school system.

“We have a labor shortage,” he said. “We can’t be demanding or picky. You don’t look at the cover of the book, you look at the book. We really can’t be demanding. … We have to hire the best person available.”

Public schools in Washington County also face administrator turnover.

The school district has seen 15 administrators leave their jobs since mid-August, school officials previously reported. But in a recent interview, Terri L. Baker, executive director of human resources for WCPS, said there were seven administrative openings.

Guessford said administrators are moving into the private sector.

“The general sector is wide open with jobs, so for me, I’m looking at the bottom of (a candidate), and I’m looking at the bottom,” he said.

“For me personally, it’s something that never crossed my mind,” said school board member Darrell Evans. “The superintendent and his hiring team hired the best people at the time.

“We have great leaders,” he said. “If a candidate is diverse, we hire them if they’re the best people for the job, but the pool of candidates isn’t very large.”

Sherry Greenfield is an education reporter covering Washington County public schools.

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