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Dracut data shows school system lacks racial diversity among staff

Feb 12, 2019 01:28AM ● By Lisa Redmond

Sabrina Heisey

DRACUT – While one in four Dracut students is a child of color, a recent Dracut school report on race/ ethnicity of school staff shows that only six full-time staff are either Hispanic or African American with the majority of the staff are white females.

School Committee member Sabrina Heisey requested data on diversity of school staff from administrators to service workers. Superintendent Steven Stone on Monday presented the committee with staff data the school district submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last November.

Many area school districts, such as Lowell and Andover, are reviewing their diversity goals, Heisey said. The reason is simple: Having a diverse school staff provides children of color a better education, said Heisey, who is a parent of two children of color.

The following is a highlight of the results:

* Of the full-time school staff – administrators to laborers – there are 338 white female staff versus 89 white male staff.

* The school system’s administrators are seven males and 10 females. Of those, there are three male principals/assistant principals and eight female principals/assistant principals. All the administrators and principals are white.

* Of the seven female school staff who are not white, the date shows: one African American teacher, one Asian teacher’s aide and five Hispanic or Latino women, three of whom are professional staff.

* The district has no male full-time staffers who are African American, Asian, Native Hawaiian, American Indian or Hispanic.

Committee member Betsy Murphy said she agrees that students of color should have teachers who are the same race. “No doubt there is a benefit,’’ she said.

Murphy noted that she has “bugged’’ the superintendent about the male/female ratio among administrators. She said she is pleased to see the number of female administrators “grow over the years.’’

School Committee Chairman Joseph Wilkin, whose background includes recruiting, questioned the diversity of the pool of candidates being provided by the education job site, SchoolSpring.

The superintendent stressed the district doesn’t limit itself to candidates provided by SchoolSpring, although it is a widely used job site for teachers. The Dracut School District participates in diversity job fairs and try to recruit recent college graduates to get the most diverse pool of candidates possible, he said.

But Stone admitted, “The candidate pool is very small for teachers of color.’’

Stone, who has worked in school districts with a high minority population, said “We hire the best possible person the for the job.’’

“Absent recruiting candidates of color, we focus on diversity programs for students,’’ Stone said.

The school district has implemented cultural proficiency programs to address issues of diversity with the student population, he said.

Heisey stressed that she is not criticizing the district’s efforts to hire diverse staff. Dracut’s data, she said is not reflective of a lack of effort…This exists everywhere.’’

She suggested, and the committee agreed, to create an ad hoc committee to examine the diversity hiring practices of other districts, then report back to the full committee.

“If we don’t look into it we won’t know what we are missing,’’ she said.

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