Op-Ed

Woodford schools lax in minority hiring, promotion

Civil rights activist Malcolm X cautioned, "If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."

It is time for some minority citizens of Woodford County to embrace this sentiment and demand answers from the Woodford County Board of Education about its incredibly low minority employment rate.

African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian employees are primarily custodial or cafeteria workers, bus drivers or para-professionals. In the past 30 years, there have only been a handful of minority administrators, teachers and head coaches. Minority hiring for the system is four percent, compared to the county's 15.0 percent minority population, according to the U.S. Census

This disparity hurts Woodford County by making it a less appealing place to live and undermines efforts to prepare children for an increasingly diverse world.

According to the Woodford County Board of Education, the percentage of minority students at each school is as follows:

■ Huntertown Elementary: 20.26 percent

■ Northside Elementary: 22.91 percent

■ Safe Harbor Elementary: 12.90 percent

■ Southside Elementary: 6.38 percent

■ Simmons Elementary: 34.21 percent

■ Woodford County Middle School: 16.84 percent

■ Woodford County High School: 13.77 percent

Where are the minority educators to provide role models for minority students? The benefits of these children being able to identify in an educational institution with their teachers far outweigh any reason the school district may have for its lack of minority employment.

The recruiting and promotion of minorities have also been unimpressive.

For this school year, the administration reported 29 open teaching positions. Eight African-Americans applied; six were interviewed and none was hired, according to school system records. Many who have worked for the system have had to move out of the county for promotions and other opportunities.

One complaint filed at the Kentucky Human Rights Commission is from a black man who had volunteered for two years as an assistant coach in football, basketball and track and field. He applied as a substitute teacher but said he was denied the position without reason.

Yet, he continued to volunteer, taking the middle school track team to the state tournament, placing second. He later sought a position as a paid assistant track coach, but says he never got responses to his inquires.

The position was eventually filled by two white women who did not have comparable track records, the complaint says. He is now coaching and teaching at a Frankfort high school.

Whatever the reasons for that particular hiring decision, one would think Woodford should encourage anyone who had shown a commitment to coaching and had proved he could motivate students.

In another case, a young black man who applied for a head coaching job discovered a principal incorrectly told the hiring committee that he had been arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia. After someone shared the rumor with the applicant, the principal sent an email to committee members saying the information was "simply for your edification."

When the applicant's mother expressed concern about the defamation, the superintendent said it was too bad she was taking it all personally.

These are examples from our families. But many other families and applicants have come to us with similar complaints, which create a poor image for one of the more prosperous counties in the state.

These same educators, professionals and coaches have been able to go into surrounding counties such as Fayette, Scott, Franklin and Jessamine and obtain full-time positions.

Why won't the Woodford County Schools employ the very minority students who graduate from their schools? Why won't the system employ educated minorities to educate the majority? Why is it OK for minorities to volunteer in, but not get paid by, the system?

As Woodford County continues to fly under the racial radar, America fights for peace and equality as nations come together against terrorism and hate. This nation is being led by a minority as it comes back from one of the most devastating unemployment hurricanes to hit it since the Great Depression.

Woodford's minority population should take a stand to get answers to the question: "Where are our minority educators?"

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