By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
The Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP has pointed out that three county schools "have no certified African-American teachers" and the schools director says blacks represent less than 3.5 percent of the student body at those schools.
A seven-page brochure was distributed Saturday at a bank conference room where leaders of the state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People raised nine questions and concerns. On Monday, Schools Director Jackie Abernathy crunched some numbers about Chapel Hill Elementary, Cornersville High, and Forrest High.
The numbers show Forrest High had 28 black students in an enrollment of 822 during the recently ended school year, Abernathy said, noting those 28 were 3.4 percent of 822. At Chapel Hill Elementary, three black students were 0.4 percent of the enrollment of 745, and at Cornersville High, six black students were 1.3 percent of the enrollment.
Recruitment of new teachers from soon-to-be graduating college seniors "normally takes place in January and February when universities and schools have job fairs," Abernathy said. "That was prior to me coming (into the job as director of schools) so I've not been able to find a list of minority applicants" yet.
"Several years ago, when I was responsible for recruiting," she said, recalling that as before Dr. Stan Curtis was director, "I attended job fairs and made personal phone calls, sent letters and invited candidates to visit our system, to have lunch and tour the schools."
NAACP questions/concerns included the observation: "The current director has hired several non-minority employees without posting some of the positions and the (school) board has not questioned nor stopped the hiring of those employees."
Abernathy replied, "I've hired two non-minority employees in contract positions for the remainder of the fiscal year," which ends June 30, Abernathy said. "These positions have been posted as of June 1."
The classified section of the Marshall County Tribune continues to run help-wanted advertisements for the school system.
"There are no minority male administrators," the NAACP stated.
Abernathy replied, "There are currently no African-American male teachers who have the state endorsement for working as an administrator....
"It has come to my attention that out of 60-plus elementary school teacher applicants, there were no minority applicants," the schools director continued. "And Mr. (Roy) Dukes (her predecessor) was the schools director at that time.
"I don't care what color they are," she said. "I want what's best for students and I want to move on."
County school system records show the following.
* Out of 5,250 students, there are 418 black students, or nearly 8 percent of the total that includes 4,434 white (84.5 percent) with 326, or 6.2 percent, Hispanic, and the balance being: 27 of mixed race; and 13 American Indians.
* School system employees during the just-ended school year included: 766 people, including 49 blacks who were 6.3 percent of the staffers. "We need 10 more African-Americans to have 8 percent," Abernathy said.
* As for principals and assistant principals in the system, there are a total of 17, including two who are black, or 11.8 percent of the people working in such leadership capacities.
* At the central office there are 28 employees and six of them are black, accounting for 21.4 percent of the people working at the Jones Circle building.