The employees of Maryville City Schools, Alcoa City Schools and Blount County Schools are overwhelmingly white. Lily white. There’s no other way to put it. As the story on today’s front page shows starkly in black and white, our school systems are nearly devoid of color.
And that has to change.
It won’t be easy, as administrators acknowledge. But the inability to address this lack of diversity can no longer stand.
The excuses for this inability, while compelling and reasonable, are getting old and tired. We know Blount County’s population is 93.9 percent white, 3.1 percent black and 3.3 percent Hispanic, according to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau figures.
But we also know that students in the county’s three school districts are far more racially diverse than Blount’s overall population. That fact demands more staffers of color, even though we also know that nationally, the pool for teachers has shrunk 30 percent.
We empathize with administrators who honestly want more teachers and staff of color but are frustrated at the lack of applicants. But the local school districts must redouble and retriple their efforts to recruit and retain minority candidates.
They must make a stronger push to historically black colleges and universities. They must visit job fairs, even in far-flung locales outside the mountains of East Tennessee. And they must interview every qualified applicant of color for teaching and administrator positions.
Today’s front-page report demonstrates that minority applicants often are not interviewed. They’re simply overlooked or, worse, ignored. That has to stop.
Students of all races, and particularly white students, would benefit from seeing more African-American and Hispanic role models in the classroom. It would expose them to a message some might not be getting at home: That all of us deserve to be judged by the content of our character and not melanin.