CHAPEL HILL- Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools recruited a record number of minority teachers this year, but administrators worry some are being singled-out unfairly.
The Human Resources department of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School system is celebrating its recent accomplishments this year, including recruiting a record-breaking 260 teachers to staff the new Northside Elementary and the Frank Porter Graham bilingual magnet.
Teacher Recruitment Coordinator Mary Gunderson told the school board last week that total includes 51 minority teachers.
“We have the largest number ever of teachers of color hired for the district at 51,” said Gunderson. “That’s definitely a record-breaking number. We’re very, very happy about that.”
In 2012, African-American, Asian and Latino students made up 47 percent of the student body in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system. School officials have long sought to increase diversity in the classroom by hiring teachers who reflect the make-up of the wider community.
But administrators say they’ve heard of a disturbing trend that’s making some minority teachers in the district feel less welcome.
“The teachers of color felt that they were being treated differently, negatively, than non-teachers-of-color,” said Human Resources Executive Director Arasi Adkins. “This was particularly true of new teachers, who, as we mentioned, we worked so hard to recruit in the first place.”
Adkins said some minority teachers she talked to felt a handful of parents were putting them under a microscope.
“In many cases the overwhelming majority cited a small number of prominent parents- in some cases it was just one or two parents- who were negatively targeting them in subtle ways,” Adkins told the school board. “For example, questioning their credentials or nit-picking teaching strategy, teaching style, et cetera. [There were] complaints filed with the administration without talking to the teacher first.”
Though she noted that many new teachers struggle with similar problems, Adkins said minority teachers in particular seemed to be singled out for criticism. In the past year, Adkins told the board she’s received three requests to document teacher credentials, each time for an African-American educator.
That’s triple the number of credential requests she received in the four years she worked for the Alamance-Burlington school system, a district twice the size of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system.
“Our teachers of color are subjected to more scrutiny than non-teachers-of-color, and that’s simply not fair, not just and not right,” said Adkins.
To combat this trend, administrators have launched a support group for minority teachers in the district and are collaborating with a variety of professional organizations for educators.
Adkins says it’s also important for the entire community to recognize the problem.
“We’re going to enlist the support of our great parents who recognize the signs of inequity, to work to drown out the small number of voices who are determined to target teachers and administrators of color,”said Adkins. “I want to highlight that, because it really is a small number of people. [For] the overwhelming majority of our parents and community members, this is probably alarming and disturbing to them too.”
This comes to light at a time when the district is already struggling with a rising number of teachers leaving the district. The teacher turnover rate in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system has increased to 14.47 percent this year- the highest it has been in nearly a decade.
Adkins cited North Carolina’s low teacher salaries as a prime reason that many educators leave for jobs in other states or other professions. Currently, the state ranks 46 in the nation for teacher pay.