The Bulloch County Board of Education postponed a decision Thursday night on a minority educator recruitment program. Initial cost estimates totaled $180,000 to $250,000, and board members said they want more supporting data or lower cost options.
A report that Superintendent Charles Wilson delivered in September showed that the number of black teachers and administrators had increased from 11 percent of the Bulloch County Schools’ total workforce with teaching certificates in 2012–13 to 14.2 percent this school year. But the educator workforce remained 84 percent white in a school system where 49 percent of students are nonwhite.
A Minority Recruitment Committee, including community members, school system administrators and two BOE members, has been meeting on the subject for more than a year. In two recent memos to board members, Wilson made recommendations based on the committee’s work.
“I do believe that good information and a deeper understanding of the community’s concerns have resulted from this process,” Wilson wrote in the original Dec. 31 memo.
“I also believe that a comprehensive approach that is owned and supported by all relevant community stakeholders and properly implemented can improve our efforts for recruiting and attracting qualified minority candidates and enhancing student learning in the district,” he wrote.
In a Feb. 3 memo, Wilson revised one cost estimate and added an option for diversity sensitivity training.
The costliest steps, according to his estimates, would be hiring an assistant human resources director, at a cost of $60,000 to $80,000 a year, and designating a teaching-as-a-career pathway at Statesboro High School, requiring a teacher, also at an estimated $60,000 to $80,000 annual cost.
Other recommendations include increasing the human resources department budget by $20,000 to $30,000 to support having community members participate in minority recruitment, and increasing the department’s budget by $25,000 to $35,000 for a marketing plan to reach educators about job opportunities in Bulloch’s school district.
Additionally, Wilson recommended that the school system identify a cultural and socioeconomic sensitivity awareness program for staff members and people in the community. Having the University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute provide the training was projected to cost $15,000 to $25,000. But Wilson noted that another agency could do it for an undetermined cost.
He also added “poverty simulation” training, available through the First District Regional Educational Service Agency, as another option for diversity training for school personnel. In fact, the Bulloch County Schools hosted a poverty simulation session Feb. 1 put on by First District RESA at no cost to the school system.
The minority recruitment recommendation appeared as “unfinished business” on Thursday’s agenda.
District 4 board member Steve Hein made a motion to accept the recommendation, and District 3 member Stuart Tedders seconded it, opening discussion. But both had questions.
“This is really important work, what the district is embarking upon,” Tedders said. “But in some of the recommendations, it refers to budgeting for minority recruitment efforts, and I’m just curious to know how those figures were derived.”
The cost ranges for an assistant human resources director and the SHS teaching pathway instructor were based on average pay and benefits, Wilson said. The $20,000 to $30,000 for support of community members doing teacher recruiting involved a projection of travel costs. The $25,000 to $35,000 for marketing included media promotion services as well as materials and “may be high,” he said.
“I agree with Mr. Tedders, this is very important,” Hein said. “This is something we’ve grappled with from all sides. … But I guess I need more information, more clarification.”
Hein said he wants to make sure the proposal meets the public’s expectations. District 2 member Mike Sparks agreed and said he wanted to hear from the committee.
“I would really like to hear some more about justifying all of that, how that would work,” Sparks said.
District 5 member Glennera Martin moved to postpone the decision after board Chair Cheri Wagner suggested a postponement as one way to deal with the original motion.
“I would like the opportunity to postpone, and the committee would also like to share with you … to discuss that possibly at the next meeting,” Martin said.
Hein and others said they seconded, and the motion to postpone passed unanimously.
HR wants help
Teacher recruiting would not be the only work of the proposed assistant HR director, school system Human Resources Director Phillip Tremble said after the meeting.
“We need a lot of assistance in other areas in HR,” he said. “It could be recruiting, working with unemployment, assisting with workers’ comp, assisting with certification. They will be doing a lot, but at least I’ll have someone that I can always dedicate to recruiting when we need to.”
Tremble, who is African-American, is currently the school system’s one teacher recruiter for college visits and career fairs, apart from any efforts by principals. His staff includes four employees, but the rest are clerical personnel, and recruiting has been an administrative responsibility, he said.
The school system previously had two administrators assigned to human resources, he noted. Before Dr. Kevin Judy left in 2014 to become Emanuel County’s school superintendent, he was Bulloch County’s assistant superintendent for human resources, and Tremble was already human resources director. Dr. Mary Felton is now the Bulloch County Schools’ only assistant superintendent, but she is over student support, not human resources. Other top administrators have “chief officer” and “executive director” titles.
Both of the African-American members currently serving on the Board of Education, Martin and District 8’s Maurice Hill, were named to serve on the Minority Recruitment Committee when it was formed.
In an interview, Martin said she thinks the minority recruitment effort could move forward in the short-term without the higher-cost steps. Volunteers from the community could help, she said.
“In terms of funds, I think there are ways that those can be reduced, because there are people who are willing to recruit for a lower amount,” Martin said. “We need to move forward on this issue.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.