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County schools on track to diversifying staff

February 21, 2005|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

Fountaindale Elementary School library media specialist Mironda Peace drove through Washington County during a trip to Berkeley Springs, W.Va., about a year ago.

"I liked what I saw and after doing some shopping at the Prime Outlets, I thought, "I could consider living here," the Baltimore native said.

At the time, Peace was working as a librarian with Baltimore County Public Schools. A few weeks later, she received an e-mail from her supervisor requesting applicant referrals for a library media specialist position with Washington County Public Schools.

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"I didn't offer a referral, I decided to apply for the position myself," she said.

Washington County school officials responded immediately and after meeting with Fountaindale Elementary School Principal Donna Newcomer, Peace said she felt fate had a hand in bringing the two together.

"She and I shared the same vision for the school's media center," she said. "I feel like I'm on a mission here."

The school's curriculum and demographics also made her transition a lot easier and more comfortable.

"I came from a school that also emphasized the arts, and it was also similar ethnically with students from similar social-economic backgrounds," she said.

Peace, who started in the fall, brings 31 years of library experience with her. She started her career as a public librarian with Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, where she spent 17 years. Following that, she spent a total of 14 years working with Baltimore City and Baltimore County school systems.

Peace was one of three new black teachers and administrators to join Washington County's school system last fall, increasing the number of minority teachers and administrators to 26, said Rick Gehrman, human resource supervisor for teacher personnel. Washington County's teacher population is about 1,500. Of the county's 20,000 students about 2,600 are minorities, he said.

Newcomer said Peace has been a refreshing addition to her staff.

"I think she brings with her insights and understandings of how to deal with our diversity issues," Newcomer said.

Tara Mann also joined the Washington County school system as an administrative intern last fall. Mann spent seven years as a classroom teacher with Berkeley County (W.Va.) Schools.

Administrative interns work rotating training schedules at different schools where they shadow administrators. Mann spent last semester at Eastern and Williamsport elementary schools and she will complete this semester at Winter Street and Fountaindale elementary schools.

"At the end of the year, I'll be eligible to apply for an assistant principal position," Mann said.

A 1996 graduate of Shepherd University, the Martinsburg, W.Va., native said she looks forward to making an impact in the lives of all children, but she feels a special commitment to be a positive role model for minority students. Mann was in the market for a new career opportunity when she learned about the position after seeing a local newspaper advertisement.

"It was just one of those things that was meant to be," said Mann, who already had completed her master's degree and other academic credentials.

"It's important to have diversity in leadership positions," she said. "It brings a certain empathy and perspective that other groups don't always have."

In other staff changes, South Hagerstown High School assistant principal Jethroe Reid, who also is black, recently was promoted as Washington County Public Schools' new coordinator of human resources and educational support personnel staffing.

"As a minority in a management staffing position, his point of view and ideas will be a plus for our team," Gehrman said.

As a member of the management team, Reid will sit at the table when plans and decisions are made regarding support and teacher staff, Gehrman said.

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