Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Program's topic: race and schools

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

WEST CHESTER TWP. - Issues of Race and Diversity in Suburban Education is the title of a two-day symposium sponsored by the Hamilton/Fairfield/West Chester Branch of the NAACP.

The program begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday with a keynote address by John Jackson, the national NAACP's director of education. It will be held at Lakota Schools' Freedom Elementary School, 6035 Beckett Ridge Blvd. A reception with Jackson follows his presentation.

The program continues Saturday at the school with a panel discussion and question-and-answer session from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Panelists will give presentations on:

• How to talk about race and education.

• Diversity education and parent advocacy.

• Socioeconomic diversity and suburban education.

• Race education and cultural practices.

• Understanding legal rights and responsibilities.

• The disciplinary system.

• What: Issues of Race and Diversity in Suburban Education, sponsored by the Hamilton/Fairfield/West Chester Branch of the NAACP
• When 6:30 p.m., Friday; panel discussion, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday.
• Where: Freedom Elementary School, 6035 Beckett Ridge Blvd., West Chester Township;
• Information: 869-2300.
The symposium is open to parents, educators, elected officials and community activists.

"This is the first in a series on the topic," said Gary Hines, NAACP branch president. "This first symposium will be a general overview.''

Hines said the symposium is the first step in a more active stance the chapter is taking. The group hopes to organize a statewide program on diversity and has plans in place to take several Butler County students and educators on a spring tour to historically black colleges and universities in the south.

One of the goals, Hines said, is to attract minority student-teachers to Butler County who might then live with community members while teaching. Eventually, the group would focus on recruiting graduates to teach in the county.

Nearly a year ago Hines criticized Lakota officials for alleged racial disparities including what he described as an inadequate number of African-American teachers and administrators.

Despite promising to produce an NAACP report detailing his criticisms by June 30 of last year, Hines has yet to do so. He said, however, that he is still gathering staff and student information and expects to have a report ready within 90 days.

Lakota officials have countered that Hines is ignoring the district's many efforts to diversify both its student population, teachers and administrators.

They said the symposium is not a school-sponsored function and had no comment on it.

Michael D. Clark contributed to this report; e-mail suek@enquirer.com

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