NAACP seeks answers from Community Connection leadership

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PITTSFIELD >> The local NAACP chapter is asking the city and the leadership of the Pittsfield Community Connection program to respond to concerns about the suspected termination of "at least two people of color" from the grant-funded program's staff.

In a letter to William Travis, chairman of the Steering Committee for the program to combat youth violence and gang influences, Berkshire NAACP chapter President Dennis Powell asks for a response to several concerns. The Eagle has obtained a copy of the Aug. 15 letter, which states in part:

"1. It has come to our attention that at least two people of color have been terminated from your program. While we are not aware of the circumstances, we would like you to explain your hiring and firing policy/procedures. 2. We also are requesting information about the cultural competence and mandated reporting training provided to your staff. 3. From the inception of PCC can you tell us how you have met the requirements for hiring as called for in the Affirmative Action Ordinance adopted by the City Council of Pittsfield? 4. Can you tell us the procedures you follow to pay staff and other participants in the program?"

Copies of the letter also were sent to PCC Executive Director Jon Schnauber, Mayor Linda M. Tyer and Police Chief Michael Wynn.

Powell also notes that the NAACP's mission statement is "One Nation Working Together," and says that it is in that spirit the chapter wants to reach out to the PCC Steering Committee, "in the hope of opening a dialogue in an effort to get some answers to some questions regarding the operation of your organization."

Reached on Friday, Powell said he has not yet received a response and declined to comment before hearing from the PCC.

Travis said Friday that the PCC staff and the Steering Committee "fully intend to respond" to the concerns expressed.

The former Pittsfield Public Schools superintendent added that he became involved as a volunteer after reading about the extensive mentoring program established by the PCC. He became the committee chairman after the initial chairman and first PCC program director, Adam Hinds, left that committee role during his ongoing run for the state Senate.

The committee, made up of representatives from organizations and entities involved with youth in the community, including the Pittsfield Police Department, Berkshire United Way, the YMCA and other groups, is in the process of expanding beyond the organizations originally involved when the PCC was established in 2013, Travis said.

The city has received three annual state Shannon Grant Program grants to first set up the PCC, and later to hire staff and expand and enhance the programming offered.

Services include a large mentoring program for youth, services for the single mothers of youth considered at risk of violence or gang activities, and numerous other initiatives.

The staff includes an executive director, mentoring coordinator, outreach workers who interact closely with youth in the programs, a counseling consultant and an employment coordinator.

Executive Director Jon Schnauber said Friday that the program will respond to the concerns. "I am confident we will have a solid reply to the NAACP," he said.

He added that the program closely follows employment and other requirements and that "everything is checked and double checked" for compliance.

Tyer said Friday that "the next logical step is for [the PCC] to respond to that organization, and I hope to be included in their response."

For more information on the PCC program, visit http://pittsfieldcommunityconnection.org.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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