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[Susan notes: We should spread the message and model of this fine letter far and wide. The last paragraph, in particular, fits every school system.]

Submitted to Village Voice but not published

To the editor

Dear Editor,

May I suggest to Nat Hentoff (“The Lost Two-Thirds,” Village Voice, August 13-19, 2008) and others alarmed by the high dropout rates for Black males, that they ask Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein and United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten if some of our youthful dropouts were discouraged by the “Disappearing” (online at “Black Educator” blogspot, December 19, 2006) of Black and Latina/o educators from New York City classrooms?

Since 2002, when Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein took control of the Department of Education, the percentage of newly hired Black and Latina/o educators has declined steadily. In 2002, 27.2% of new hires were Black; in 2006 the number fell to 14.1%. For Latina/o educators, the percentage of new hires fell from 14.3% to 11.7%. (“Black Educator,” op. cit.)

Not only are Black and Latina/o educators increasingly the last hired, there is a growing perception among those in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) and the “rubber rooms” that senior teachers of color are also being removed from classrooms at a disproportionate rate. The August 7, 2008, issue of the New York Teacher (p. 27) included four pictures of teachers assigned to the ATR. Three of the four were teachers of color, including one Black, one Latino and one Asian.

As a parent and educator, I have been an eyewitness to this “Disappearing” along with the alarming dropout rates among youth. While these matters are indeed complex, I believe that the exclusion and purging of educators of color sends a negative message to our youth and families.

All adults, regardless of their race or ethnicity, have a responsibility and a stake in the success of our young people and all of us should ask what message is being sent to our youth when they witness the “Disappearing” of educators of color. The hiring and firing practices of the New York City Department of Education, over the last six years in particular, are, in effect, reversing prior gains with respect to the composition of the teaching staff. There have been in recent years no shortage of negative cues to our youth; stranded New Orleans residents, racial profiling, fifty shots, racial disenfranchisement, racially disparate rates of incarceration and sentencing.

Let’s come together to offer positive, tangible cues to our youth; a message of inclusion, for the youth and the adults, that renews our commitment to fairness, equality and collaboration; a message that we adults model so that our children can see and feel it.


Concerned Parent and Educator

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