District 200 administrators feet were held to the fire by members of the school board for not doing a better job of recruiting minority faculty, particularly from historically black colleges and universities.

Board members John Allen and Amy McCormack urged the school to expand its reach. The discussion took place during last Thursday’s regular board meeting. Supt. Attila Weninger informed the board that the school had just extended an offer to a minority candidate from Illinois State University earlier that day. But of the three hires the board was considering that evening, none were minorities.

Jason Edgecombe, assistant superintendent for human resources, explained that the school has not been successful at recruiting from black colleges and universities. The school does recruit at job fairs, he said, but minority representation at some of those is very low.

Edgecombe said the school has challenged its division heads to recruit minority candidates. McCormack asked whether the division heads were given specific directives on how to recruit more diverse candidates.

Edgecombe replied, “We want a slate of candidates who come to the District Leadership Team as finalists to be representative of a diverse group of people, and to provide explanation as to when that does not occur. Now while that challenge is out there, we recognize that’s not an easy challenge. While we have that goal, it’s easier said than done to find the kind of candidates we want.”

McCormack asked specifically about recruiting from schools with a higher minority population, and if not, was that something the school was considering doing. Edgecombe noted the school has not established relationships with such schools.

“We certainly can have that conversation, but that would be the one thing that we’ve not done in any real way,” he said.

McCormack said she would like to see that happen. Allen was passionate in his criticism.

“When you say ‘we’ have not been able to establish relationships, what comprises ‘we,’ the HR department or division heads?” he asked.

Edgecombe said that would be everyone at the school responsible for recruitment. Allen said he’s brought up the issue of recruiting at black colleges previously, noting that those schools have graduates in education.

“If we’re looking to diversify our teacher population, and we know of universities that graduate students by the hundreds, I don’t understand why we haven’t established relationships when I brought this up last year.”

Allen mentioned Morehouse and Spelman colleges in Atlanta, Fisk University in Nashville, and Tuskegee University in Alabama as places to recruit. He said there are a dozen such institutions across the country with candidates the high school could hire.

“When I hear institutions, and it’s not just this school-higher institutions, businesses and companies-talk about ‘We can’t find qualified blacks,’ well why don’t you go where blacks are getting qualified and then you can hire them?” Allen said. “Maybe we should go there.”

McCormack agreed.

“We really need to address it at that level. The problem is that when it comes to this level and you’re presenting us with a slate of candidates to be hired, that’s almost too late to be asking the question of why don’t we have a minority. We really should be at those schools, and we should be there now.”

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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