Private Schools Search For Minority Teachers

CLEVELAND (AP) - Area private schools that have already made strides to increase diversity in their student populations are now looking to hire minority faculty members.

Nicole Myers will begin teaching at the Andrews School this fall, becoming one of the school's first black teachers. Last year, Andrews had only one minority faculty member. This year the school will have seven.

Myers told the Plain Dealer for a story Monday that she chose the Willoughby school because she felt welcomed. The school classifies about one-third of its students as minorities.

While private schools in the area say they have increased their minority enrollment in recent decades, they are competing for minority teachers and administrators.

"We need to direct talented young people of color to work in education," said John Farber, who heads Old Trail School in Bath Township. "Public schools have been more aggressive, and some independent schools need to wake up."

Earlier this year, the Ohio Association of Independent Schools developed a diversity committee with branches in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati to address the issue. The association also circulated brochures in the spring featuring private schools' minority teachers as a recruitment tool to attract more minority teachers.

Even schools with high percentages of minority students still lack minority faculty.

At St. Jerome School on Cleveland's East Side, nearly 60 percent of the K-8 students are minorities, but the school has only one minority teacher.

"I've been hiring teachers here for three years, and I've only had one minority applicant," Principal Meg Cosgriff told the newspaper.

That applicant went to another school for a higher salary. On average, the pay at Catholic schools is about half that at public schools, Cosgriff said.

Nationally and in Ohio, minorities make up about 11 percent of the faculty at private schools. According to the National Education Association, 13 percent of all teachers are minorities.

Gene Batiste of the National Association of Independent Schools, based in Washington, says the push for diversity in private schools began about 30 years ago.

But some are skeptical.

Wornie Reed, professor of sociology and urban studies at Cleveland State University, cautions that while the private-school diversity push may be picking up, it's unlikely to have a big effect.

A report released earlier this summer shows the integration success some schools boast of is not widespread. The report from the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University says most private schools are not integrated and that religious schools are more segregated than nonreligious schools.

But Brenda Moss of Cleveland is glad that Andrews School will have six more minority faculty members this fall. Her 14-year-old daughter, Jessica, who is one of the school's black students, has had very little exposure to minority teachers.

"You have to think about what type of message it sends," Moss said. "I'm sure the kids wonder about this. Are there no minority teachers that are good enough to teach there?"

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)