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School officials criticized for unfilled diversity post

April 09, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Jefferson County Schools officials are being criticized for not filling a cultural diversity coordinator position at the central office.

The job of cultural diversity coordinator involves attracting minority administrators, ensuring that cultural diversity is taught in the classroom and that students of various races are treated fairly, said George Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County Chapter of the NAACP.

Rutherford told the Jefferson County Board of Education last Tuesday that the cultural diversity coordinator position has been vacant or only partially filled for three years. That sends a message that the school system "does not value this effort," Rutherford told board members.

A counselor at Jefferson High School used to have the cultural diversity position, but he could not devote the necessary time to the position because he was busy with other job duties, Rutherford said.

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Rutherford said it is important that the position be filled, especially since the county's Hispanic population is growing.

Rutherford said other administrative positions in the school system have been filled, while the cultural diversity job has remained vacant.

Rutherford said there are no blacks on the central office staff and recommended that a black be hired.

Bob Winget, a member of an organization called Friends Advancing Intercultural Relations, or FAIR, also appeared before the board regarding the position. He told board members that much progress on race issues was made in the school system over the years but that progress is not continuing.

Winget said racism can act as a "cancer" when it is not addressed.

"We foster it when we decide to do nothing," Winget said.

Winget said he wanted the School Board to post the position no later than two weeks from last Tuesday.

"You let the ball drop," Winget said. "I'll see you in two weeks," he told board members.

Later in the meeting, School Board President Lori Stilley said she wants to bring the job back as a half-time position. Stilley said she hopes the board can find grant money to expand it to a full-time position.

"I agree it's an important position," Stilley said.

Rutherford said making the job half time is "totally unacceptable."

Stilley said the position is not only important to ensure good race relations in schools, but to make sure students of various socioeconomic backgrounds get the help they need in schools.

Stilley said she is not sure the School Board would be able to post the job within two weeks, but said she plans to recommend to board members on Friday during a budget work session that the position be reinstated as a half-time position.

Stilley said the job always has been a half-time position. Due to budget cuts in 2000, the position was not filled after it was vacated, she said.

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