Education

Ray Carter | July 29, 2021

State office tells school to hire 'social justice' employee

A state agency has told Mid-Del Public Schools to hire a new employee “to lead equity, social justice, and diversity efforts” and pay that individual $143,000 per year.

The position would be funded, indirectly, by eliminating up to 60 teaching positions at the schools. The state agency says the school is overstaffed and notes the teacher workforce is majority white.

Those recommendations were endorsed by the Office of Educational Quality & Accountability (OEQA) in an Oklahoma School Performance Review conducted on the Mid-Del Public Schools district.

Among the report recommendations declared “critical” was for Mid-Del to establish “an executive position at the superintendent’s cabinet level to lead equity, social justice, and diversity efforts.” The report recommends paying an annual salary of $143,000 for the new position.

“This position should be responsible for planning, directing, coordinating, assisting, and being the internal consultant to the superintendent, executive leadership team, directors, and principals regarding equity, social justice, and diversity matters concerning staff, students, and families,” the report states.

The report defines “educational equity” to mean that “every student has access to educational resources and rigor they need at the right moment in their education across race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation, family background and/or family income.”

The Office of Educational Quality &Accountability report indicates that Mid-Del Public Schools is failing in part because officials are not focused on the racial background of students.

“Lack of direct focus on the racial, ethnic, and socio-economic diversity of MDPS students is denying these students what they need to be successful and to meet their fullest potential,” the report states.

In a Twitter chat hosted in March, Rick Cobb, superintendent of Mid-Del schools, declared, “Anti-racism needs to be part of every on-boarding and continuing education program for all level of district employees.”

The OEQA report also suggests the district’s failure to address the needs of minority students is due in part to a teacher workforce that is overwhelmingly white.

“The MDPS HR department shared evidence of its efforts to recruit teachers who graduate from predominately black and Latino colleges and universities,” the report states. “Nevertheless, the MDPS teacher corps remains more than 80 percent Caucasian, compared to a student body that is now less than half Caucasian.”

Survey data compiled during the report process showed that 59 percent of Mid-Del staff said the district “values diversity in its employees” and just 13 percent disagreed.

The OEQA said some parents cited the racial composition of the teacher workforce as a problem in their survey responses.

“Four percent of the written responses from parents expressed concern that not only is diversity among MDPS teachers lacking, but there is also a lack of reasonable efforts to address the deficit,” the report states. “Important first steps are being aware of the reality of the times and the need to address these issues more intensely.”

The report noted that 5 percent of written responses on the survey from faculty and staff complained that the school was “mainly focused on the curricula and pedagogical approaches” rather than on “the need for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion resources and training.”

The racial composition of the Mid-Del school workforce could shift if the district accepts another Office of Educational Quality &Accountability report recommendation, which called for reducing “the number of teachers at secondary schools by 60+ teachers.”

That change would produce estimated savings of $3.1 million per year when fully implemented.

The OEQA report said the “class loads of most teachers in Mid-Del middle and high schools were greatly imbalanced.” The report noted that at Carl Albert High School a French III class had only three students, while an AP U. S. History class had just nine students and an AP Chemistry class had only five. At Del City High School an AP English III class had only eight seats of 60 filled, while an AP Chemistry class had only two of 24 seats filled. At Midwest City High, an Honors German class had just three seats of the 30 available filled, and an AP Statistics class had only three seats filled.

“In any school district, business, or industry, overstaffing has obvious budget considerations,” the OEQA report states.

The report adds that the Mid-Del district “could have as many as 125 too many secondary teachers.”

While the survey showed that 70 percent of Mid-Del staff believed students in the district “are accepting of other students who are different,” just 35 percent of students voiced the same opinion.

The surveys included in the report also highlighted several other issues.

Only 30 percent of Mid-Del staff agreed that “test data from district-adopted benchmarks and mandated end-of-year tests are used to improve the district’s curriculum,” while 23 percent disagreed and 47 percent had no opinion.

Only 19 percent of staff agreed with the statement, “Teachers who do not meet expected work standards are disciplined.”

When the survey asked staff to grade the “[o]verall quality of education in this district, compared to other districts in Oklahoma,” 30 percent of Mid-Del staff gave the district a C, 10 percent gave the district a D or F, and 11 percent offered no opinion.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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