He said the task force plan also proposed hiring an assistant human resources director who would work toward remedying that situation, but that position was never filled.
Benner of ASD said: “Recommendations from the diversity committee have been implemented. Recommendations tied to money are difficult to get into the budget. With reductions on budgets there have not been many new hires.”
DeGrace said the school board should reinstate the task force to address diversity issues. He said one thing that revived task force should look at is why Latino educators don’t stay in the district when they are hired. “Is it an active hostile environment? The demands are too high, the resources are too low and the support is non-existent.” He indicated other districts are much more receptive to people of color and don’t face the huge financial problems cash-strapped ASD faces.
“I want the school board to acknowledge there’s a problem,” said DeGrace, adding the district knows there is a problem – and has a remedy -- but is unwilling to do anything about it. “That’s unacceptable.”
“In the wake of announced layoff to balance the budget, there is grave concern no improvement in diversity will ever occur,” said Bosket a statement released at the news conference.
The men objected to Latino elementary school principals being reassigned by the administration, “removing them from much needed schools and communities where parents and students can relate to them.” Lopez said the school board should look into why those principals are being transferred.
Without revealing why she is resigning, the three men said the resignation of Susan Lozada as the district’s executive director of community and student services “has caused increased concern that a strong advocate for diversity and students of color will be leaving the district.”
Said Lopez: “The community would like the school board to intervene and attempt to retain her as a strong voice for students and parents.”
DeGrace called Lozada a high-ranking Latino member of the administration and indicated she resigned because of the environment in the district.
Lopez said he has seen Lozada’s resignation letter but declined to divulge its contents. He said if school board members read that letter they will need to investigate why a person in central administration would write what Lozada wrote.
“In regards to Mrs. Lozada, we do not discuss personnel issues,” said Benner of ASD.
Bosket said the Allentown NAACP is looking into complaints about ASD’s IBEAM Academy alternative school.
Lopez claimed a boy in that school was bullied and harassed by a teacher. He said when the principal could not help the boy, his mother went to the school board to complain. But she was intercepted by an unidentified male administrator who said she did not have to speak to the board because he would help her son. So she did not speak to the board, but the bullying did not stop.
Although the woman’s son no longer attends that school, Lopez maintained: “It is our understanding the issue at that school with that staff member persists.” He later said that staff member is white.
Despite their criticisms of the district, all three men stressed they appreciate the work done by the school board.
“We support the Allentown School District,” said Bosket. “And we recognize that this is a difficult time for the school district because of funding and trying to balance the budget. We want to communicate to the school board that we support them, but we need them to know they must act on certain issues.”