To the editor of THE EAGLE:
It is my understanding that the local branch of the NAACP has planned a campaign to engage the community in addressing race issues which includes meeting with the Pittsfield Affirmative Action Committee, Pittsfield City Council, School Committee and then the general public. Its work includes responding to countywide racial issues.
Facts. There are no City Hall staffers of color. Qualified minority teaching candidates have been refused locally. Of the 600 teachers in Pittsfield, five are African-Americans and four Hispanic with 31 employees of color among all school positions. Over 20 percent of students in Pittsfield schools are children of color. This group has a dropout rate of 15 percent for African-Americans and 11 percent for Hispania and Asians. This is unacceptable.
Response Pittsfield has recruited a number of new capable teachers. New teachers and many experienced staff want help in addressing the needs of this changing population. Multicultural BRIDGE has provided workshops for teachers and students to address race and diversity in Pittsfield and throughout the county. But more training is needed.
Superintendent Jake McCandless has taken the lead in making the hiring of teachers of color a priority but more aggressive recruiting is needed. The City needs a strong affirmative action policy. Brian Sullivan (column, March 13) writes that where to get applications, what jobs are available at City Hall and where are the numbers on minority applicants are questions that should be answered in an affirmative action policy. The implementation of the policy and careful monitoring would make that information available to the public. The policy must have measurable outcomes and ensure a welcoming working environment for people of color.
The public will have an opportunity to respond to the revised policy when the City Council reviews it. Let’s make sure that policy means real change.
As to the transitional positions that the mayor appoints, these should be opportunities to make a commitment to real change. Wasn’t that what Mayor Ruberto did when he selected Chief Wynn?
The reactivation of the local chapter of the NAACP is a positive sign of change. This group will not allow an affirmative action policy to sit on a dusty shelf for another 20 years. There are people in Pittsfield and throughout the county who support change. I would encourage them to join the NAACP, which meets the second Wednesday of every month at Conte School at 7 p.m.