The Reading School District should try harder to hire people of color

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate.

March 9, 2011

By Morris France

In response to complaints, criticism, and grievances discussed at hearings held by Pennsylvania State Human Relations Commission in late September of 2010, the Reading School District’s administrators had an opportunity to dispute or defend the allegations of nepotism, racism, and bigotry.

Nepotism is providing employment to friends or family when they lack the skills or the necessary qualifications for the position they were given.

Racism is a structure, a system of denial. A system that denies certain people their basic human and civil rights because of their race or their ethnicity.

Bigotry is hate, hate that is guided by the notion that one’s ethnicity or race is superior to that of another’s and will dictate how one’s group will behave towards another’s group.

A racist can be defined as an individual who conscientiously denies people their basic human and civil rights because of hatred for a certain race or ethnicity.

When school districts receive monies from the state and federal government, the school districts are required to follow certain guidelines. The guidelines stipulate who the programs are to benefit and where the monies are to be allocated or spent.

On Friday, Feb. 25, the local newspaper published an article titled, “Efforts to employ minorities outlined,” with a subscript, “City school district’s side of hearing issue explained.”

According to David Mekeel’s article, a few of the district’s former and present administrators made statements regarding the district’s efforts to hire minorities, then added security within the district’s buildings and “what could be learned from this and gleaned from the things.”

First, some background to put the district’s reality in perspective.

On Aug. 23, 2010, at the Wyndham Hotel in Reading, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission held a public meeting. Among the items on the agenda was the announcement of investigatory hearings involving the Reading School District (RSD) to be held on Sept. 28, 29, and 30.

Asked why the district is being investigated, in a paraphrase, the chairman replied, “We asked the RSD some questions and they did not answer them to our satisfaction.”

What motivated the commission to ask questions in the first place?

Fast forward to the article of Feb, 25.

Dr. Anthony A. Georeno, the former director of human resources, said Reading has tried to bring in more minority staff but hasn’t found enough qualified candidates.

“The problem has been getting the numbers to come in front of us for the interview process.”

Part of the problem could be about numbers; however, the main problem is about trying or the lack of trying, To try, is to do nothing.

In the world of social media, people of color know that the RSD will not hire them and believe it would be a waste of time and money to come before RSD for an interview.

Time and money are the real numbers, not human beings.

Circa 1976, the clichés “qualified candidates” and “qualified applicants” became part of the culture’s vernacular in response to affirmative action.

Within the RSD the term “qualified candidates” is only applicable to people of color.

Have you read Rebecca VanderMeulen’s superbly written exposé about the hiring practices within the Reading School District?

In the February article, Georeno, the former human resources director, said Reading has tried.

Is he referring to the city or the district? Perhaps in his analysis it is easier to reference the city.

Dr. Georeno has the credentials and professionals’ letters to either move up or out. Maybe the new director of human resources, Joel T. Brigel, can speak more than one language and has the certification to be a superintendent?

When and where are minority candidates encouraged to apply? “Especially those who speak more than one language.”

Are all candidates seeking employment with the RSD required to speak more than one language, or is that the only reason to hire a minority candidate?

It is puzzling to read that part of David Mekeel’s article where the acting superintendent said he was glad to have a chance to share the district’s views after listening to harsh criticism and accusations in September, much of which he claimed was not completely accurate.

Perhaps some clarification would be in order. The RSD’s administrators, as well as the board members, were not required to attend those public hearings.

They were there to support their attorney’s request for two members of the commission to remove themselves from the hearings because of some perceived political ambitions and fears that a spouse’s affiliation with the RSD would inhibit their objectivity.

The time they spent at the hearings after their lawyer’s request was to satisfy their own curiosity, and the district’s lawyer advised them not to speak before the commission.

That’s contrary to David Mekeel’s article about those September hearings.

Mekeel writes that no one representing the Reading School District spoke before the commission. When in fact a board member did swear in and speak before the commission. Perhaps [school board member] Ms. [Karen] McCree can tell Mekeel on whose behalf she testified. The accuracy of a truth will give credibility to its reality.

Does the district view itself as the victim?

The acting superintendent further states, “My position is that we can learn from this. … We can glean what are the things we need to take a look at.”

The Oxford American dictionary defines glean as v.1. To pick up grain left by harvesters. 2. To gather scraps of information.

It is quite apparent that Vecchio has no idea of the cost associated with the lessons that can be learned “from this.”

The issues confronting the Reading School District are more than the confluence of the picking and gathering of “the things we need to take a look at.”

Mr. Vecchio, your refusal to identify “the things” gives credibility to those harsh criticisms and incriminating accusations that much of which you claim was not completely accurate.

Mendacity and duplicity are the best of friends when political consideration is the prerequisite for upward mobility.

According to Russell DelRosairo, director of security, the number of security cameras in Reading schools has risen from 100 to 700, and the number of security guards has tripled since 2006.

DelRosario should have mentioned the deployment of four Reading police officers to patrol the Castle on the hill and the Citadel down the way, at a cost of $555 a day per officer.

At one point, someone advocated the idea of annexing juvenile court into the high school. Are they administrating a reformatory or a high school? If minority students were only 20 percent of the overall student population, would there be a need for that much security?

The first step to solving problems is to acknowledge that the problems exist.

Institutionalized racism exists through a culture of noncompliance.

The Reading School Board as a whole and the directors in part are responsible for establishing policy and the implementation of policy.

Historically, the Reading School Board made very little effort in enforcing Office of Equal Opportunity guidelines, and as a result, created a climate of indifference towards the hiring of minorities and actualized a culture of noncompliance.

Has there ever been a person of color who had the authority within the Reading School District to say, hire her or hire him for this or that position?

The Reading School District has never hired a person of color for the position of skilled laborer, i.e. electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc.

Nor has it required any of the contractors who received contracts to perform work within the districts buildings to hire skilled laborers of color.

How many of the skilled laborers that worked on that $84 million Citadel project were people of color?

After so many years of neglecting O E O guidelines, the climate of indifference became the perceived norm, and perception became reality.

The ratio of minority teachers to minority students reflects the reality of noncompliance.

Did the Reading School District ever participate in a collegiate job fair at Morgan State University, Lincoln University, or Howard University?

“The problem has been getting the numbers to come in front of us for the interview process.”

If the administrators travel to the aforementioned universities, there would be different results. How did Albert Einstein define insanity?

Its uncertain as to whether or not, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission will file any formal complaints. One can predict with certainty that recommendations will be rendered and the administrators will travel.

Posted on



%d bloggers like this: