Nice sentiment: “It is important to strive for a faculty that is representative of our student body.” But here’s the tell: “When hiring a teacher or staff member, our ultimate goal is to hire the best person possible for the position.”

That’s the quote from Kristen Smetana, principal of Riverside Brookfield High School, in last week’s Landmark report about the astoundingly dismal representation of black and Hispanic teachers at RB and across the school districts the Landmark covers.

How dismal?

There are no African American teachers at RB. Not this year. Not last year. Not in the last 40 years according to people long associated with the school.

How dismal?

The sponsor of the school’s African American and Minority Empowerment Club is white. 

Here’s the thing: Hiring “the best person possible for the position” and hiring black and Hispanic teachers are not mutually exclusive goals. Good conscience and good research tells us that having Hispanic and African American teachers is demonstrably important. It is critical to young people of color to see role models of the same ethnicity in classrooms. We’d argue it is also critical to white kids to see black and brown teachers and administrators walking the halls of their school. And we are certain that a mix of black, brown and white teachers comparing notes in the teacher lounge, working together on curriculum committees, is critical to the continuing success of our schools.

We’ll acknowledge the challenge of finding minority teachers to hire. Yep. It’s hard to find black and Hispanic teachers, especially men. More demand than supply. Better options than teaching, etc. Throw in the line about only hiring “the best person” to the list of excuses and we’ll never solve this problem.

First someone has to get worked up enough to declare there is a problem. We heard last week from some black students on the subject. What does the school board think? The superintendent, principal and HR director are all bright educators. They know the research. 

Saying that most job applicants come in online these days and that you can’t tell the whites from the blacks is a stark admission of a totally passive approach to hiring. Go out and recruit minority teachers. Convince them that RB is the place they need to teach. That they will be welcomed and respected.

This is important and it is hard. But what these local schools have done in the past doesn’t cut it. 

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