A group called the Concerned Parents & Citizens of African American Students in the Columbia County School System wants the school system's leadership to more closely reflect its minority student population.
"African American students find it difficult to thrive in cold climates that are culturally irrelevant and void of leaders who look like them, understand them and support them," said Thomas Murphy, who spoke for the 80-member group before the school board Tuesday night.
Non-white children make up 20 percent of the school system's student population, according to the Office of Student Achievement's 2002-2003 report. The population of black students is 13 percent.
The school system's certified professional staff is 6 percent black, according to the report filed with the Office for Civil Rights. Brookwood Elementary Principal Brenda Jones is the system's only black principal, and there are two black central office staff members.
Murphy met with School Superintendent Tommy Price and Executive Director of Human Resources Connie Davis on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
"They are just out to help us make our system better, so it was very positive," Davis said. "They are going to help us with mentoring programs, volunteered to help provide assistance in working with our students in a mentor-leadership kind of role."
She said school system officials met with black leaders in the late 1980s and developed the current recruitment policy. Changes made as a result expanded the scope of recruitment efforts. Her office sends recruitment packages to traditionally black colleges, attends college campus recruitments and has system vacancies posted on the Internet and on the state Department of Education Web site so that applicants worldwide have access to the information.
"We are looking for the very best teachers, regardless of any other qualification," Davis said. "We want the very best qualified teachers."
Murphy said a steering committee between members of his group and school officials will continue to meet to discuss problems and solutions.
"We are all in agreement that what we want the best for all students in Columbia County," he said. "We feel if we continue with our communication it will definitely improve school performance."
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