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CITY SCHOOLS FALL BEHIND IN MINORITY HIRING SHORTAGE OF QUALIFIED TEACHERS, FAILURE TO SET EXAM TIED TO PROBLEM

The percentage of minority teachers in the Buffalo public schools apparently dipped slightly this year, falling further from the overall court-ordered goal of 21 percent.

School Superintendent Albert Thompson said that the trend is toward increased employment of minority members and that the recent downward moves are not troubling.

The problem at the local school level results from increased opportunities for minority youths who may decide they are more interested in careers other than teaching, the superintendent said.

"There is opportunity for those youngsters in other areas," he said. "Twenty years ago all would go into teaching."

Buffalo, under a federal court-ordered desegregation plan filed in 1980, must hire one black for each white until the total reaches 21 percent minority in each hiring category.

The situation is underlined by the percentages of minority students graduating as teachers at Buffalo State College. The college said that last spring students belonging to a racial minority made up less than 4 percent of the 518 education seniors, while college-wide they represent 13 percent of the student body.

At-large member John C. Doyle links the dip this fall to failure of school administrators last spring to hold an examination for incoming teachers. At that time, Thompson said the school district could not afford the more than $100,000 it would cost to hold a spring examination.

Doyle recalled that a few weeks later, he learned the board was paying to send 23 people, including 12 from the community and 10 staff members, to a conference in California.

"The cost had to be considerable," said Doyle. "It had to be at least $1,000 per person."

In the fall, he said, it became apparent that there were no minority candidates on any of the teacher hiring lists. The eligible minority teachers were all hired during the summer or found jobs elsewhere.

It would have been better to limit attendance at the conference, Doyle contends, and to put the money toward an exam that would result in a renewed list of minority candidates.

The conference in California involved issues in educating black children.

James M. Kane, a top aide to the superintendent, said the fall figures do not include temporary teachers. A tabulation in June will count teachers hired for the school year only and will be more illuminating, he said.

Ferry District member Bettye Blackman pointed out the difficulty in maintaining goals when minority teachers move on or up or retire.

Under court-ordered one-for-one hiring, the school district alternates hiring of minority and white candidates.

And while percentages of minorities in teaching are down slightly, there are small increases in other areas. Central office staff is now 31.9 percent minority, and minority white-collar supervisors increased 5.5 percent to 28.8 percent.

At-large member David B. Kelly suggested that the dip in percentages of minority teachers may in part reflect increased numbers of elementary school classrooms.

"There are no minority teachers left anywhere who are not working for us," said Kelly, who disagrees with court-ordered hiring of minority teachers who failed a skills test. "There is no pool of minority candidates."

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