SEBRING — Al Joe Hinson stepped up to the speaker’s podium at Monday’s school board meeting to once again call for more black administrators in the Highlands County School District.
Hinson said he had read in the media that principals had been changed, including one at Avon Elementary School.
“I looked at that, and it said to me that you are firing a black administrator, and we are wondering why we can’t get more black applicants in here,” he said. “We are losing our kids and the kids, that group of kids, they are watching this and that’s totally unfair.”
Many of the leading black administrators have been lost because the district just wanted to get rid of them, Hinson said.
“If their evaluation is bad, get rid of them, but just don’t do it for doing it,” he said. “I just ask you to look into this. I don’t know what is going to happen with this. But, we have two [black school administrators] and you are getting rid of one.
“Something is wrong with that picture,” he said.
The school board and administration made not comments.
Avon Elementary Assistant Principal Debra Thompson will be in an elementary teaching position next school year at a yet-to-be announced school, Deputy Superintendent Rodney Hollinger told Highlands Today after the meeting after conferring with Superintendent Wally Cox.
Thompson is black.
Black representation in the school administration has been a reoccurring issue that has been brought up about every three years.
In 2003, Al Joe Hinson, Robert Saffold, Lester Roberts and other black leaders formed the Highlands County School Board Involvement Coalition.
In an Aug. 4, 2003 letter, the coalition called for support to “bring in and keep black minority teachers” in Highlands County.
“In the past we have had black teachers to work with the problems of our black students,” the letter stated. “With less than 5 percent black teachers in this county and 20 percent black students, our students have very little hope. Now we must join hands and help with this problem.”
Data from the Florida Department of Education shows that in the 2012-13 school year, the teaching staff of the School Board of Highlands County were 86.4 percent white, 7.1 percent Hispanic and 4.7 percent black.
The May 9 student enrollment data show the school district’s student population is 45 percent white, 32 percent Hispanic and 17 percent black.
A preliminary district accreditation report in 2009 noted the district’s challenge in recruiting and retaining professional staff to represent its racial and ethnic diversity.
In 2009, Cox responded to the report stating the school district is trying to work on bringing more minorities on board. It can be hard to get job seekers to consider relocating to a smaller county, he said at that time.
The district has been advertising to fill four elementary assistant principal positions and two secondary assistant principal positions.
Human Resources Director Vivianne Waldron said Tuesday the district has eight applicants who are qualified to be interviewed and five more who are in the application process.
Among those 13 who have applied to be an assistant principal, two are from outside the district so she does not know their ethnicity because legally it cannot be asked on an application, Waldron said. But, among the 11 internal applicants, one is black and two are Hispanic.
Hinson has prefiled for the District 1 seat on the School Board of Highlands County. Incumbent Ronnie Jackson and Charlene Edwards have also prefiled for the District 1 seat.