Parents’ scrutiny of CHCCS minority teachers raises concerns

Dec. 17, 2013 @ 05:30 PM

A small group of parents in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has raised concerns about and leveled criticism against minority teachers in the school system, prompting a reaction from the administration.

Arasi Adkins, CHCCS executive director of human resources, and Mary Gunderson, coordinator of teacher recruitment and support, recently told the school board that teachers had noticed a pattern with the same small group of parents questioning credentials of teachers who attended historically black colleges or universities and complaining about their teaching strategies and communication.

 “If the teacher said they went to a HBCU [historically black college or university], the parent then called administration saying that the teacher may not be well prepared,” Adkins said.

Adkins and Gunderson said that the incidents stem from a small group of parents whose “behaviors could be misconstrued as racist.”

There have been four claims within the district alleging unfair scrutiny from the parents. In addition, the administrators believe some teachers have left the system because of the complaints. Adkins said that at least two teachers last year who raised concerns about their treatment by parents resigned. Adkins believes that being under the microscope by some parents influenced another teacher’s decision to leave the district early this school year.

Adkins would not name the specific schools where the incidents took place, saying she wanted to maintain open dialogue with teachers and make sure they were comfortable discussing their concerns.

“We want the whole community to be aware that these few issues have been reported, and that we need to examine them more closely to prevent them from happening in the future,” Adkins said in an email. “We want everyone to be vigilant in recognizing the signs of potential inequity, especially when those signs are very subtle, as we mentioned.”

A structural system of support for new teachers is in place in the district along with peer assistant consulting teachers who work directly with new teachers, Adkins said. A new support group is in the works for teachers and administrators of color as a result of recent criticisms of some teachers, in efforts to examine this issue more closely.

The pair said that the first meeting of this fledgling group had about 30 participants and was described as eye-opening. The next meeting will be held in January and will delve into various issues and begin strategy development.

“A lot of the people there were shaking their heads to some of the scenarios but not necessarily because it happened to them but because if it happens to one person, it could happen to any of them,” said Adkins. “We want to provide that extra layer of support.”