Plymouth-Canton Minority-Teacher Push Stirs Controversy

Shawn D. Lewis, Detroit News, July 6, 2010

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A recent directive in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools urges administrators to scan resumes for “cues” that applicants are from a minority racial group. Tip-offs can include job-seekers’ residence, college attendance, fraternity or church membership and employment history.

Nearly a quarter of Plymouth-Canton’s nearly 19,000 students are minorities, compared with less than 3 percent of its educational staff. District officials say they want to close that gap while hiring the most-qualified candidates.

“We’re a good district, but this will help us look closer at ourselves,” said Superintendent Craig Fiegel. “We know we’ve needed to do it, but we’re now making a conscious effort to change . . . and are talking about being more diverse in areas where we haven’t been diverse.”

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“They should hire the most qualified teachers, and race and gender should not be a factor,” said Gratz, director of the American Civil Rights Institute, a California-based group that advocates against affirmative action.

That’s insulting, says parent Ann Marie Hudak.

“Who says minority teachers can’t be qualified?” asks Hudak, chairwoman of the Plymouth-Canton Citizens for Diversity and Inclusion. “Our teaching population should reflect the student population, because, based on statistics, kids who see themselves reflected in teachers tend to score higher on tests, and it’s important for our children.”

In districts across Metro Detroit, the percentage of minority students far exceeds the percentage of minority teachers and administrators. Statewide, minorities comprise 17 percent of administrators and 10 percent of teachers, while minorities account for 30 percent of all students.

For instance, more than 40 percent of students in the West Bloomfield Public Schools district are minorities, while less than 10 percent of teachers and administrators are nonwhite. In the Warren Consolidated Schools, more than one in five students is a minority, compared with less than 2 percent of the staff.

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Kerry Birmingham, media relations specialist for the Michigan Education Association in Lansing, said it supports the push by Plymouth-Canton.

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