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The UnifiEd Student Voice Team's School Board Blog
The November school board meeting started with a moment of silence for the victims of the Woodmore bus crash. While this was very touching, I (Carson) felt that the school board could have done more than just a moment of silence and pictures on the screen. For example...
they could have had a speaker or talked about what they are doing to improve student safety in the aftermath of the crash.
The other significant underwhelming aspect of this meeting was the room itself. This appears to be a theme in our blogs, however, with all the improvements that have happened in the room I still miss the student art as it seemed to be a reminder that the school board was focused on the students. Among the changes made were the addition of fairly large TVs. We mentioned these in our blog from the last meeting and I was able to see them in person for the first time this month. The TVs did seem to be very helpful to presenters as they could glance up to the TVs instead of all the way to their right at the old projection screen.
While mentioning the statistics on Hamilton County’s school year progression compared to last year, the county’s current diversity index was mentioned. The numbers were disappointing but not surprising. The comment, “The bottom line is, we didn’t really make any progress” was echoed with a chart showing the disheartening breakdown of diversity by race. While 88.2% of teachers in 2019 are white, only 9.48% are black and these numbers don’t even compare to the insufficient .89% of Hispanics and the scanty .62% of Asian teachers. Later on in the video, the recruiting process was slightly elaborated on. The county currently visits 30 colleges and out of all of the schools, only 7 were HBCUs. While there are six total HBCUs in Tennessee, other bordering states are also visited to help recruit more teachers or teacher aids. Georgia, for example, has 10 HBCUs alone so with the combined number of Tennessee HBCUs plus even a fraction of the bordering state HBCUs, there is no way that number should be so low. It’s also notable that no HCIs (Hispanic College Institutes) are mentioned. There is a clear lack of diversity between black and white teachers, but diversity doesn’t stop with that. When the total percentage of teachers in 2019 not being black or white adds up to a meager 2.3%, it is not shocking that little representation is made when it seems as though little work has been done.
It is the county’s job to make sure they are actively trying to find teachers that represent the backgrounds of their students to create not only a wider variety of educators, but also to show the representation that students need so that they can be engaged in the classroom and feel seen. Communityschools.org states: “While racial diversity is important in any field, it is especially crucial when racial congruency—or lack thereof—affects young people in schools.” Representation is not just a want developed by millennials who want to make the next decade harder, it is a real need for not only students, but for other colleagues of teachers to feel included and motivated in environments that best represent not just where they are from, but who they are.
When the board reached the consent agenda, a miracle happened: no one pulled anything from the consent agenda. In all my months of going to school board meetings I have never seen this happen. The pace of the meeting was also significantly faster than usual.
During the "request for proposals" discussion (in which the controversial idea of arming teachers was briefly mentioned) the board got into a somewhat intense discussion, strongly mimicking the age-old argument of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” The debate was about how a safety proposal would be the most effective: if it was started before the safety coordinator was hired, or after. The board voted to wait until the safety coordinator was hired. Since then, the safety coordinator has been hired, and the process will likely start soon.