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Citizens Call for More African American Teachers in Schools

Community members who addressed the Vidalia BOE at its April 12 session called for more African American teachers in the city school system. “According to the Georgia Department of Education Governor’s Office of Student Achievement website, African Americans comprise greater than 49% of the Vidalia City School System student population; however, of the 183 certified teachers in the school system, only 22, or 12%, are African American,” Vidalia Resident James Reddick said. “At the Vidalia High School, there are no African American male teachers and no African American administrators; while there are three African American administrators at the other schools, only one is principal.”

He continued, “There is a disproportionality in the number of African American teachers and administrators when related to the African American school population. The ethnicity of teachers needs to be more compatible to that of student population.”

Reddick shared that this increase in African American teachers and administrators would give these students more positive role models, which would cut down on the amount of behavioral issues. He stated that the students need teachers and administrators that they may relate to, and vice versa. Reddick suggested that the school look to the historically black colleges and universities within 120 miles of Vidalia for their teachers. Citizen Carmen Mills also spoke on this issue. “Studies have shown that students do, in fact, benefit from having teachers that look like them,” she emphasized. “Research says that black students that have one black teacher by 3rd grade are 13% more likely to enroll in college after graduation, according to John Hopkins University. These same researchers found that the positive role model effect of having a teacher that looks like you was especially beneficial for low income, young black men, who are 39% less likely to drop out of high school.” Community Member Jeff Williams added to Mills and Reddick’s statements. “If you look at the mission of the school district, it is to invest, ignite, and inspire – I think we all want the same thing,” he told the Board.

“I think the optimum word here is ‘accountability,’” Williams emphasized. “Everyone must have accountability. Some of the numbers I have heard today and have seen in my own research lends to one question: where is the accountability?”

Williams quoted the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) for Vidalia City Schools, which he says is at 63.2%. According to Williams, this means that out of every 10 graduates from the school system, 4 students are not ready for college or the work force. “If they can’t go to college, if they can’t have a career, they will hit the streets, and we will increase that thing called ‘crime rate,’” he noted. “We certainly can do better.” The trio of speakers unified in their dissatisfaction that former J.R. Trippe Assistant Principal Dr. Henry Hankerson was not given an interview for the vacant Vidalia High School Principal position.

“We asked for Dr. Hankerson to come back – he’s currently in Burke County, where he can see his mom every day,” Williams said. “He applied because we requested him to come back and help our students, but we cannot understand why he would not receive an interview.”

Williams added, “If he was good enough to be our assistant principal in the past, shouldn’t he be good enough to receive an interview for a position now?”

Board Response

The Board thanked the members of the community for their comments, and stated that each individual who spoke during the meeting would receive a letter addressing their concerns from the Board.

Action Items

Resignations were accepted for J.D. Dickerson Primary School paraprofessional Kelsie Williamson, J.R. Trippe Middle School Teacher Amy F. (Culpepper) Robinson, J.D. Dickerson Primary School Teacher Deanna Stoddard, and Sally D. Meadows Elementary School Teacher Allison Harrell. All resignations are effective at the end of the current school year. The following new hires were approved: Bus Driver/PT Mechanic Greg Thompson, J.D. Dickerson Primary School Teacher Hollie Mobley, J.D. Dickerson Paraprofessional Zoe Toole, Speech Pathologist Selina Brantley, and Sally D. Meadows Elementary School Teacher Rebekkah Warnock. The 2022/2023 Non-Resident Tuition was set at $200 per student. Also, 9 musical instruments – 3 tubas, 3 sousaphones, 3 French horns – were approved to be purchased for the school band. This purchase will use $54,385 of Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds.

Other News

Assistant Superintendent Ginger Morris told the Board that she had been collaborating with the Ohoopee Regional Library System to give all students library cards and access to the library for the entirety of their academic career within the school system. Students will “roll off” the system one year after their graduation.

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