PITTSFIELD — The Affirmative Action Advisory Committee on Wednesday heard reports on minority hiring for municipal and school positions that contained figures very similar to those reported last year.
Committee members and personnel department officials did, however, note progress on several fronts. Those included continued strong efforts to provide affirmative action training and workshops for department heads and others; job posting strategies that cast a wider online net and more often target minority candidates; the hiring minority applicants for high-profile posts and the creation of a cultural proficiency coach position to work with staff members.
The committee, which meets quarterly and monitors progress toward minority hiring and other goals in the city's Affirmative Action Policy and Plan, also welcomed two new prospective members.
The Berkshire chapter of the NAACP has sent a representative — Lenny Kates — for the first time since the committee was re-established in 2013. Another NAACP member and former chapter president, Will Singleton — a retired educator — will become the education representative to the committee.
The names of both new members are expected to be submitted to the City Council next month for official confirmation.
The acknowledged amount of work to be done on minority hiring is reflected in the figures for school department and municipal employment.
Of close to 1,200 full- and part-time employees in the school system, only 38 are from minority groups, up from 36 last year, Human Resources Director Harry Hayes reported.
Of approximately 487 city employees, slightly less than last year's reported 6.25 percent (about 30 workers) are from minority groups today, Personnel Director John DeAngelo said.
Hayes said that despite the similar overall figures for the schools, several minority employees left the system and others were hired to bring the figure up by two. And he noted that hiring in some key positions, such as school principal, show a commitment to change, as did the hiring of Shirley Edgerton as the cultural proficiency coach.
There also is an emphasis interviewing all minority candidates who meet the minimum qualifications for a job, Hayes said, and DeAngelo said that is something he also has stressed for municipal jobs.
The number of job applicants who answer a standard question concerning whether they are a member of a minority is not precise, the officials said, although after people are hired they are likely to include the information on reports required by state or federal entities.
Hayes said there were 916 job applicants this school year and 204 declined to provide information on whether they were members of a minority, such as Hispanic, African American, Asian or American Indian or Alaskan Native.
Kates suggested adding a short message on all city job applications that notes that the information is considered important in tracking and promoting minority hiring.
Board member Cecilia Rock said she would like to have in future reports the job titles of positions that are filled by minorities and the schools or department where they are located.
DeAngelo gave a report on city hiring for the recent quarter through November. He said there were 15 vacancies and a total of 145 applicants. There were nine minority candidates and four met the minimum qualifications and two of those were hired, or 13 percent of the new hires.
He said the city also is tracking why people leave municipal jobs, noting that two minority candidates were let go, one during the probationary period when the person could not master a key skill required for the job.
Rock said that type of situation indicates a need for "support mechanisms," such as specific forms of mentoring, for employees who might be a new minority worker in a mostly white workplace.
Board member Bryan House said that is within the committee's purview in the Affirmative Action Policy and Plan, and the issue was reserved for more discussion at the next meeting.
DeAngelo said there already is a general orientation process for new employees that could be enhanced.
Committee members also noted their displeasure upon reading about the appointment of Assistant Superintendent of College and Career Readiness Richard Brady by Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless and the city School Committee in July without a job search, after the veteran teacher had served in the post on an interim basis.
Advisory committee Chairwoman Mary McGinnis said the lack of a job search meant that minority and other candidates did not have a chance to apply.
McCandless told the School Committee that he based his decision on Brady's excellent performance in the job since the prior fall on an interim basis.
Committee member Peter White also called for a legal opinion on whether the school system is officially considered under the city Affirmative Action Policy and Plan and a related city ordinance, or whether some action might have to be taken first by the School Committee or other entity.