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Boycotting school district makes no sense

April 11, 2011

Test scores are up. Dropout rates are down. So why is the job vacancy for superintendent of West Point schools about to become a hard sell for potential candidates?
Because one local group of “concerned citizens” is threatening action if its demands are not met. And what are they demanding? Are they pleading for fairness in the hiring process?
They would say yes, but their actions say no. Are they asking for the school district to hire the most qualified candidate? Again, the answer is no.
Instead, the message this group of citizens is sending about the required criteria for West Point’s next superintendent seems clear: If the new hire is not black, the group will boycott the school system.
So much for fairness.
As the search for a superintendent intensifies over the next few weeks, the group has promised they will march in protest at school board meetings if this set of criteria is not met. Simply put, they are trying to use manipulation to hijack the hiring process to make sure skin color is the only determining factor in the school board’s upcoming decision.
How is that any way to go about hiring the leader of a school system?
Are we really so stuck on race in this town that our citizens don’t even care to select the most qualified candidate for one of the most important jobs in our community?
To be fair, anyone has the right to protest a hire they disagree with and anyone has a right to boycott any business they see fit. But that doesn’t make it right.
In the coming days, the school board will begin the interviewing process to delve further into the list of potential candidates for superintendent.
According to one official I spoke within the school system, the field of potential candidates is strong and diverse, meaning the search for best fit will hold a wealth of possibilities. How then, will our situation look to a candidate, who may be immensely qualified, if dozens of people in the community are boycotting the schools simply because of a person’s skin color.
You think out-of-town candidates want to come within 10 miles of that? Absolutely not.
For the record, I’m not blind. I know the school system is 80 percent black. But my question is this: Why limit yourself to just half of the potential pool of candidates just because of skin color?
To say that only one race would be capable of leading a school district is lunacy, and it’s a misguided attempt at political maneuvering.
As the process continues, the pressure will likely increase on the school board, and I’m Ok with that, as long as the pressure is for the right reasons.
In this case, that pressure is absolutely misguided. Case in point, the district has a terrific record of minority hires in the past couple of decades. Currently, five of the seven principals in the school district are black. And guess what? All five are immensely qualified. And you know what else? All five got their jobs through hard work and they were awarded for their qualifications.
They were not handed jobs to satisfy a group bent on intimidation until they got their way.
I graduated from West Point High School, and I am very interested to see who will be chosen to lead the district into the future. Whoever it is will be facing immense challenges right out of the gate. School funding has been slashed to bargain-basement levels, teachers have been let go due to the budget crisis and the next few years will be hard to navigate for anyone who sits in the superintendent’s chair.
For these reasons, the school board’s task is a daunting one. They are charged with finding a person who can lead the school system through tough times, a person with leadership qualities strong enough to conquer these challenges. I certainly hope the school board does the right thing and hires the best person for the job, and I hope skin color is irrelevant in that determination.
That person may be a black man or a black woman. That person may be of another race. I couldn’t care less what race that person comes from, as long as he or she can get the job done. I wish other people felt the same way.
The message I think we should be sending to the school board is a simple one: Go get the right person for the job.

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