Where Are all of
the Black Teachers, Principals, and Educational Staff?
By Diana Patton
Have you ever had a Black teacher? Ever had a Black
principal? Do you remember seeing Black staff members at
your junior high, high school, college or university?
Did you ever read a book in school about Black history or
systemic racism (not just the posters and quotes devoted
to Black History Month)?
Me? Never had one. From elementary school all the way
through law school.
If you’ve never had a Black teacher or learned about Black
history or systemic racism, here’s likely the reason why:
“The proportion of teachers of color in the workforce
continues to lag far behind the share of students of color
in schools across the nation. Today, 51 percent of students
in U.S. public schools are students of color, but just 20
percent of teachers are teachers of color.” -The
The statistics for Black principals
are even worse.
You may be asking yourself, Why
does this even matter?
show that when students of color, and especially Black
students, see a representation of themselves in their
teachers, in the staff at school, and in the curriculum, it
has a positive impact upon their lives and upon their
academic achievement. This positive impact reaches not only
to Black students and students of color but to all
While schools, districts, and states
have made gains in recent years by hiring Black teachers,
staff, and teachers of color in predominantly white schools,
the problem is that they are unable to retain them.
So, the question becomes: why are
schools unable to retain Black teachers, teachers of color,
and Black educational staff?
A recent study
published by The Education Trust, in their article
If You Listen, We will Stay:
Why Teachers of Color Leave and How to Disrupt Teacher
Turnover, dug deeper into
this question and found the following reasons for why Black
educational staff leaves. Oftentimes, it’s because they:
experience an antagonistic
are deprived of agency and
bear the high cost of
being a teacher of color
I’m familiar with these reasons, as is
Rhonda Kimmons, former principal at a high school in a
district made up of predominantly white staff, with about 27
percent students of color. Rhonda experienced very similar
treatment. Rhonda was the first Black female principal at
this institution, and I was hired as a consultant to help
this district improve its culture, diversity, and
When I started working with the
district, I began connecting with the staff, conducting
focus groups, and created a diversity and inclusion team. It
was then I discovered that Kimmons often felt devalued and
unappreciated. The following is a summary of how Kimmons
felt she was being treated:
being held to a different
standard of expectation, where she had to perform at levels
that are higher than the norm.
completely isolated and
alone, being the only female and Black representation.
feeling an expectation to
handle all issues regarding race, diversity, and inclusion.
like her behavior was
measured and judged through intangibles on a daily basis.
that she could say the
same thing a white person would say and be told she sounded
angry or like she had an
like all eyes were
constantly on her, and that she was
After listening to her concerns, I
quickly came to the conclusion that Rhonda was the very
reason I was hired. As a result, I began to turn much-needed
attention toward helping Kimmons feel valued and included.
I called a meeting to help mediate the
issues that Kimmons was experiencing. I even offered seven
remedial steps for the superintendent to follow, to give
Kimmons the respect, dignity, and value that she so richly
To my knowledge, these steps were not
Unfortunately, in April of 2020, it
was brought to my attention that Kimmons was no longer an
employee of the district. The school offered ZERO reasons as
to why she was no longer there. And when I asked Rhonda, she
said she was not allowed to speak about the matter. This was
all done during the onset of the pandemic.
Should this district be required to
explain why Kimmons is no longer there?
Yes, I believe this district should
offer an explanation. I believe they need to be open to
their school staff, to the taxpayers, and the community as
to why a highly qualified Black principal with a stellar
record, in a predominately white institution, is no longer
Furthermore, they should offer an
explanation as to what strategies they will take to make
sure they will hire and retain more staff members and
teachers of color. After all, there are ONLY about 14 Black
staff members out of the approximate 400 staff.
If schools aren’t willing to face
these issues and be open about what’s going on behind closed
doors, we will not find solutions. We need public schools to
be more public and to put strategies in place to help retain
Black educators and staff.
Here are solutions schools should
highly consider in order to retain educators of color:
Create a district-wide
priority to recruit, retain, and support teachers and
educational staff of color.
Listen to, affirm, and
take action on issues impacting teachers and educational
staff of color.
Collect and disaggregate
data (by race/ethnicity) on teacher recruitment, hiring, and
Organize a race-based
diversity advisory team that works closely with district
leaders and the board to listen to concerns AND to take
Invest in the recruitment,
preparation, and development of strong, diverse leaders,
committed to positive working conditions for a diverse
Empower teachers of color
by ensuring curriculum, learning environments, and work
environments are inclusive and respectful of all racial and
environments that are reflective of the cultures they serve.
Here’s the bottom line: We realize
that schools are dealing with a lot right now, especially in
light of the COVID-19 guidelines and requirements. However,
the issue of recruiting and retaining Black educators and
staff needs as much attention as any other issue - now more
Black students and students of color achieve more, as do
all students, when schools retain educators of color.
It's not enough to just recruit Black teachers and
educational staff of color. Schools must actively create
environments where Black teachers and educators of color
feel respected, valued, affirmed, and a part of a culturally
and racially-relevant school community. This is an
imperative issue, and one in which schools must take action
on. The time is now to implement racially and culturally
relevant strategies, policies, procedures, and practices
that are reflective in the people and in the curriculum.
On a final note, I’m happy to report
that Rhonda Kimmons has secured another position as
principal of the
P. Stewart Academy
in Toledo. I’m
confident that she will make great contributions to this
school community. If you get the chance, send her a note of
encouragement at the Ella P. Stewart Academy, 707 Avondale
Ave., Toledo, OH 43604-2963.
Lastly, if you work at a school, are a
parent, or are a student, I challenge you to look around and
Print this article, along with the
If You Listen,
We will Stay, Why Teachers of Color Leave and How to Disrupt
and take it to your school leaders to start a discussion.
Also, here’s a great podcast to listen
to - Black Educators Matter, by Danielle Moneyham:
Interested in having Diana Patton
speak to your school or organization? Email
book her for your next event or professional development