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NAACP questions low numbers for black teachers, students in accelerated courses

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By Brian Slattery

The local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People wants to see a few changes in Brunswick County Schools.

Dr. Jerry Jackson spoke to members of the board of education July 9 on behalf of the Brunswick County NAACP.

He said he shared the NAACP’s concerns, which are based on information received through public information access laws, with superintendent Edward Pruden, executive director of human resources Mark Pasier, and some of the board members.

While 15.9 percent of students in Brunswick County schools are black, only 8 percent of the teachers, 65 out of 801, are black, Jackson said. In a school district of 12,308 students, there are only 10 black men teaching in Brunswick County.

“If the district is earnest about recruiting black teachers, one of the first places to start is in their own backyard — the local high schools,” he said. “The inclusion of young black males on the high school staff could serve to inspire young adolescents to aspire to become educators.”

Jackson said only four young black male teachers could be role models in the district high schools, and they all teach at North Brunswick High School.

He said he understands recruiting black teachers is not simple, as he attended a recruitment fair with Pasier in the spring.

“However, that should not excuse the district from investing the time and resources to increase the number of black teachers in the district,” he said.

Jackson asked the board members how the district plans to increase the number of African-American teachers for the 2013-14 school year.

Jackson also questioned whether the school system is doing the minimum in offering courses and using data to ensure equity for all students.

“Only 7.8 percent of students in advanced placement classes are of African descent,” he said.

He also said the percentage of black students enrolled in Early College has declined steadily, from 7.8 percent in 2010-11 to 7.3 percent in 2011-12 to 6.9 percent in 2012-13.

Jackson said accelerated courses in the sciences are not offered in middle schools and, of the accelerated math program at the middle school level, only 6.2 percent of black students and 4.6 percent of Latino students are enrolled in the classes.

Three of the four middle schools offer no foreign language classes.

“Based on the numbers, it is clear that black students are under-represented in the upper level classes where they are offered, and there is a sizeable enrollment gap between black students and their white counterparts,” he said.

Jackson also complained that Universal Pre-K, which is intended to help poor and underprivileged children enter school ready to learn, is not funded in Brunswick County.

He asked if black students are encouraged to take rigorous classes and, if so, why the numbers are low.

Jackson also questioned why the district does not maintain data on the percentage of graduating students, percentage of black students that graduate and JROTC students planning to attend a four-year or two-year university or college or enlist in the military.

School discipline practices are another concern, Jackson said. A March 2012 Department of Education study on discipline found African-American students are three-and-a-half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.

Jackson said 34.9 percent of all students in Brunswick County who served short-term suspensions in 2010-11 were black. In 2011-12, 29 percent of students assigned to short-term suspension were black.

When the school system contracted with KBR Building Group last fall for an assessment to determine if the district needs a career and technology education program, NAACP representatives asked to be included with other stakeholder groups in developing a list of needs as part of the study, Jackson said.

“We were not invited to be participants during the early meetings. And, in short, the branch felt slighted because we were not afforded the same treatment that other stakeholders received,” he said. “We want to be taken seriously.”

Because Jackson spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting, the board members did not hold any discussion or take any action. Board member Shirley Babson asked for a copy of Jackson’s written comments.

 

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.