NAACP’s Eye Cast on W-B Area

Sherry Long, Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre), October 16, 2010

All children deserve to have teachers that look like them, said some Wilkes-Barre Area parents at a diversity forum Saturday.

The Wilkes-Barre branch of the NAACP has been waging this battle on and off for 15 years, demanding equality among the hiring practices at the Wilkes-Barre Area School District, and members said they don’t plan to stop now.

Members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others discussed the need for more teachers of diversity and how to spur Wilkes-Barre Area into actively recruiting minority teachers by looking outside the immediate area during a Diversity Forum at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Hill Street.

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Minority children make up about 40 percent of the student population at Wilkes-Barre Area, Felton [NAACP Wilkes-Barre president, Ron Felton] said. That’s up from the 25 percent of students enrolled in 2006, yet minority teachers are still less than 1 percent of the district’s staff, he said.

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A small group of white Nationalists in attendance made a few remarks and asked some questions throughout the two-hour meeting.

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One woman in Smith’s [Steve Smith, a member of American Third Position and Regional Coordinator of Keystone United] group, who did not give her name, asked if the NAACP had proof of any minority quality applicants seeking employment.

Robert McLeod taught for a decade at Heights Elementary in Wilkes-Barre until 2007, when he moved to Maryland. A former Teacher of the Month recipient, who possesses a master’s degree from Bloomsburg University and is certified to teach in 27 states, McLeod moved back into the region recently to take care of family matters and has applied for another position with Wilkes-Barre Area.

He has not been hired and is substitute teaching in Scranton.

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McLeod explained how important it is for all students to have teachers that look like them as he told the story of how one of his students once gave him a letter stating that she didn’t know that black men could be teachers.

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Wilkes-Barre Area Multi-cultural Diversity Coordinator Julia Hoskins attended the forum and took notes to take back to share with Superintendent Jeff Namey.

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