PITTSFIELD -- The Affirmative Action Advisory Committee on Wednesday made revisions to Pittsfield's affirmative action policy and plan and heard reports on progress in minority recruitment and hiring for city posts.
The committee is updating a 38-page plan that was adopted during the 1990s but had been dormant -- along the advisory committee itself -- before new committee members were appointed last fall. Once the final language changes and updates are approved by the committee, the document will be submitted to Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi.
The committee also heard updates from city Personnel Director John DeAngelo and Harry Hayes, human resources director in the school system, on recruitment and hiring of minority employees.
The impetus for these efforts was a question raised last year by members of the local NAACP chapter about the status of the city's affirmative action policy. After a search, the policy was located at City Hall, but it apparently hadn't been referred to for many years.
DeAngelo reported that since the group's last meeting, 11 city positions were filled. Of those, he said, three did not attract any minority candidates, despite new efforts to expand job posting and outreach with the aim of encouraging minority candidates to apply.
For the eight posts that attracted minority candidates, four minority applicants were hired, DeAngelo said.
He also described a new city policy in which the mayor will review each hiring decision before it becomes final, and a new form that will be filled out by department heads or managers providing details of hiring decisions. That includes a space for the manager to explain why, if there were minority candidates, one of those applicants was not hired, DeAngelo said.
"Basically, it explains why the post was not offered to a minority candidate," he said.
Committee Chairwoman Mary McGinnis said the changes were positive ones, but she asked DeAngelo if graphs might be prepared showing what types of jobs went to minority applicants, and DeAngelo agreed.
Hayes said that there now are 24 educator positions posted by the school department and more than 30 openings are expected by the end of the school year. To date, he said, of 232 applications received, 16 were from minority applicants.
To meet a goal of increasing that figure, Hayes said, his office has spoken with the career offices of five college career centers in the region, and a Team Diversity in the Pittsfield schools has been formed and is developing methods of recruiting more minority candidates.
Information about the group and its activities will be posted on the city schools' website, he said.
Figures cited by the NAACP chapter in filing a complaint of chronic discrimination against the city in November included that only a half dozen of 600 teachers in the system are minority employees and few staff members in City Hall offices are from minority groups.
The complaint was filed with the state Attorney General's office and other agencies. Jonathan Miller, chief of the AG office's Civil Rights Division, attended the meeting Wednesday in Pittsfield. He said he was observing the session but referred further comment to the attorney general.
"We have received and are currently reviewing the NAACP's complaint," Christopher Loh, a spokesman for Attorney General Martha Coakley, said Thursday. "Our team attended the advisory committee meeting as part of that review process."
At the suggestion of committee member Bryan House, the personnel officials also agreed to consider more follow-up contact with qualified minority candidates who were not hired but might wish to apply for any additional city openings.
Members of the Berkshire chapter of the NAACP attended the meeting, although they said they were not necessarily representing the organization. They asked when the city's updated policy and plan for affirmative action would be formally re-adopted -- questioning whether the policies could be implemented without formal adoption by the City Council and/or School Committee.
Committee member Cecelia Rock said that, whether the updated plan has been formally approved, the policy is being put into action -- starting with the appointment of the new affirmative action advisory group last year.
McGinnis said the plan still has to be redrafted to add the language changes approved Wednesday, and the final version must be approved by the committee before submission to the mayor. She said she would circulate the latest draft prior to the next meeting.
Among changes agreed upon were language to ensure all school employees are covered under the policy, as the document originally referred only to city employees.
Vietnam-era veterans were referred to in the original version, but that will be changed to ensure all veterans are covered.
Bianchi has said he will submit the plan to the City Council for formal adoption.
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