The district says it'll strive to hire more African-Americans.
By Claire Trageser | The Denver Post
A group of 12 educators worried about the decline in the number of African-American teachers in Denver Public Schools decided Tuesday to file an official complaint about "systemic discrimination" with the U.S. Department of Labor.
Larry Borom, chairman of the Black Education Advisory Council, said discrimination has caused the number of African-American teachers in Denver to drop to 200 in 2008 from 324 in 2000. But according to the Colorado Department of Education, the number has dropped to 265, not 200, while a count by DPS shows 256 black teachers.
Borom said that whatever numbers are cited, there is still a decline.
"Whether it's 200 or 265, it's still a downward trend, and that's not what we want to see," he said.
"This is plain old discrimination based on race. They are not hiring enough new African-American teachers, not making new positions available, not providing support to new teachers and not renewing contracts."
The council, one of five groups that advises DPS on diversity issues, plans to file its complaint Thursday. It hopes the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will investigate and give DPS a set of directions, which could include hiring someone with expertise in diversity and making job announcements to minority groups.
DPS already has taken those steps, said Happy Haynes, assistant to the superintendent for community partnerships.
The decline in minority teachers "is exactly the opposite direction from where we wanted to go," she said. "If we're trying to be a more diverse workforce, we have to . . . reach out and go that extra mile. We haven't necessarily done that effectively in the past."
DPS will hire a diversity coordinator, who Haynes hopes will fix many of the concerns.
Haynes also said DPS will recruit teachers of color by working with organizations such as the Black Education Advisory Council and by using diversity hiring programs.
Over the past eight years, the number of American Indian, Asian and Latino teachers in the district has increased slightly, and a new trial program, The Denver Residency Program, recently hired 27 teachers, including five African- Americans, eight Latinos and one American Indian.
These new teachers will slightly improve a significant gap between the number of minority students and teachers.
According to the state Education Department, almost 78 percent of the 4,349 DPS teachers are white, 6.1 percent are black and 14.3 percent are Hispanic. By contrast, 17.2 percent of its students are African-American and 55.5 percent are Hispanic.
Borom said he is as worried about retaining black teachers as he is about hiring them.
"African-American teachers have had a very bad experience in Denver," he said. "There are all kinds of stories in our community about teachers not having the opportunity to have positive career experiences in DPS."
Haynes said that without specific examples of discrimination, she could not comment on that issue. She said the decline in numbers alone is not evidence of discrimination.
Borom said the trend has a negative impact on students.
"There need to be role models for the kids in our community," Borom said.
"Our kids need teachers that come from the same places as them, represent them, look like them and know something about them."