Black educators' group examines schooling

April 28, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |
  • Meggan Day, Guidance Counselor at Clear Spring High School, speaks to a full classroom about College Admission and Scholarship Opportunities for Students of Color during one of the three Sessions held by the Washington County Alliance of Black School Educators about increasing academic achievement from a values and strength based perspective.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

Saturday wasn’t a school day at South Hagerstown High School, but it was a time for a talk about education, particularly for African-American students.

The Washington County Alliance of Black School Educators hosted a half-day summit, a sign that the group has been revived and is trying to provoke thoughtful debate.

After a keynote speech in the morning, participants divided into three groups to talk about college admission and scholarships for students of color, academics for disadvantaged students and “learning by doing.”

An afternoon panel discussion with several general questions concluded the event.

Washington County’s chapter of the National Alliance of Black School Educators started about three years ago, hit a lull and has re-emerged, said Brenda Thiam, the local group’s president and an autism specialist in Washington County Public Schools.

Saturday’s forum was a way to publicize the group and its initiatives, said Lee Brooks, the local chapter’s secretary and a student intervention specialist.

Asked how Washington County can recruit and retain a diverse group of educators, Albert Thompson of The Leadership and Learning Center suggested paying attention to data on minority students’ achievements.

Thomas C. Segar, vice president for student affairs and associate graduate professor at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., said he wants to see Washington County recruiting on his campus.

He said many Shepherd students come from Washington County and would like to return to their home district for teaching jobs.

Timothy Dawson, South High’s principal, said Washington County’s school board was “courageous” in choosing a district outsider as the new superintendent — Clayton Wilcox, who is Hispanic — and the district has shown signs of becoming more diverse.

He was reluctant, though, to say minority teachers are always needed to teach minority students, although some students have been conditioned to think that way, he said.

“I’ll tell you what I’m looking for,” Dawson said. “I’m looking for the best teacher.”

Most panelists agreed that parents should take an active role in their children’s success.

Charles Herring, a South High senior, said parents should help teach children at home.

Segar urged teachers to give direction to parents and make them feel accountable.

Kimberly Crawford, owner of Zodiac Hair Expressions and mother of an elementary school student, said it sets a bad example for parents to shirk their duties, forcing teachers to pick up the slack.

“What that student learns at home, he’s going to take it back to school,” she said.

Parents have to feel wanted and comfortable talking about problems with school officials, said Joan E. Cephas, owner of Timing & Associates LLC, an education consulting company.

Thompson argued that many of today’s students are missing the parental figures that were standard in previous generations.

When teachers ask, “What about the parents?,” Thompson said, “I say, ‘When you can find ’em, let me know. ’Til then, we have lives to save.’”

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