by James A. Bacon
Under the Northam administration, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has taken the lead in pushing for racial “equity” in public schools: hiring more minority teachers, funneling money to under-performing schools, and rewriting admissions policies for elite governor’s schools to admit more minorities. But it turns out that the senior ranks of the VDOE itself are almost exclusively white.
As the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) reports in its review of VDOE administrative effectiveness (my highlight):
As of July 2020, all 13 staff in senior leadership positions—primarily the assistant superintendent level or higher—were white (seven of them are male). Eight of nine hires for these positions since VDOE’s reorganization in 2018 have been white applicants (one minority applicant was hired but has since left the agency). A member of the superintendent’s cabinet is a person of color, though that person is an office director.
VDOE staff expressed concern to JLARC that the lack of diversity in senior leadership might “hurt perceptions” of the agency and not allow VDOE leadership to “fully understand the challenges facing school divisions with higher proportions of student populations.”
But VDOE has an excuse: Darn it, it’s hard recruiting minority candidates for senior positions. But we’re trying.
States the JLARC report:
According to VDOE leadership, it is difficult to successfully recruit minority candidates for assistant superintendent level positions.
JLARC does not describe why it has been difficult hiring qualified minority candidates, just what VDOE is doing about it.
Agency leadership staff indicate that they have had more success in hiring office directors who are people of color (the level below assistant superintendent), which will better position the agency to fill future senior leadership roles with more diverse internal applicants as those positions become vacant. Eight of 31 (26 percent) VDOE office directors are minorities. Agency leadership and management staff are also addressing diversity through participation in an
equity training series provided by Virginia Commonwealth University that focuses on implicit bias and cultural competency.
Wow. VDOE leadership is admitting that it suffers from implicit bias and insufficient cultural competency, yet it is leading the overhaul of the entire public school system. Is it fair, using the same criteria that VDOE uses to judge others, to call VDOE leaders “racist”? Or, less harshly, do we conclude that VDOE on their watch remains guilty of “structural racism”?
Bacon’s bottom line: In truth, what we’re seeing here is a classic pipeline problem. There are not enough qualified minority candidates applying for senior administrative positions. Why might that be? Because there are not enough minorities graduating with relevant degrees from colleges and universities. Why might that be? One possibility is that Hispanic and African American college grads espy superior career advancement opportunities in fields other than education. Another possibility is that there aren’t enough minorities with the academic credentials to get into college.
The pipeline problem is compounded by the fact that qualified minority candidates are in extremely high demand. VDOE hired one minority applicant for a senior leadership position, but that individual has since left. We don’t know it for a fact, but he or she was likely recruited by some other educational agency trying to solve its pipeline problem.
Attending equity training programs is a useless response. VDOE’s white leaders are already so “woke” that a fistful of sleeping pills couldn’t put them to sleep. The JLARC report offers a plausible remedy: Groom more minority candidates in lower ranks for advancement. In other words, address the real problem!
Meanwhile, VDOE leaders, mend your own fences before you demand that others mend theirs. Show a little empathy for school districts that face the exact same problem you do. Acknowledge that the lack of proportional racial representation in a given occupation does not always constitute discrimination or even “systemic racism.” Either admit that truth, or own up to the fact that you’re racist and have no business running a public school system.There are currently no comments highlighted.