Diversity committee to create change

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Piqua City Schools recently formed the Diversity Committee of the district. The committee wants the district to hire more minorities in full-time positions to reflect the diversity in student enrollment. Photo depicts the “creation” of a variety of different teachers.

PIQUA — As poet William Cowper once wrote in “The Task”: “Variety is the spice of life.” It is realized at Piqua City Schools that there is a lack of the “spice,” with a need to increase different ethnic and racial backgrounds in staff to benefit the educational development of students.

“I think it’s always been important to PCS to celebrate diversity and establish a culture that embraces diverse people,” Assistant Superintendent Dave Larson said.

The development of the Diversity Committee at PCS came to be when an analysis of the staff demographics did not reflect the district and students at large, said Larson, who is on committee. According to the school report card from the Ohio Board of Education, the students enrolled in the district have 30 Asian or Pacific Islanders, 105 black/non-Hispanics, 72 Hispanics, and 265 students who are multiracial. The district currently only has three minorities hired full-time.

“We needed to do more to track minority candidates in the district along with providing our students with a more diverse culture in our district,” said Frank Patrizio, vice president of the board of education and another committee member. “I don’t think we get a lot of minorities that do apply. It hasn’t been a good process, and we need it to change.”

A more diverse culture in the district would benefit students, Patrizio said.

Patrizio would like to see policy changes for the board and attorneys of the board guidelines. One of those changes, if the board approves, is to interview at least one minority during time of hiring. The policy change would not be a “quota system,” in which the district would be required to hire a certain amount of minorities, but rather an effort to bring in more diversity among staff.

“It forces the administration and the hiring team to actively hire minority candidates,” Patrizio said.

This project is one that the committee wants to see happen yearly, not just during hiring season. “It was important that we didn’t meet just to analyze data, but to also be proactive,” Larson said.

As a major focus of the committee, members would like to see more student involvement with the project as well, such as forming a student affairs group at the high school involved in activities that celebrates diversity. The committee wants the district to empower student organizations to be leaders, and show others the value of a diverse student and staff population.

“It’s not about that we need a certain number of this race or that race,” Larson said. “It’s about creating an environment that’s culturally rich that gives new opportunities and experiences to our students.”

There is concern that minority candidates do not consider Piqua as a place of employment because it is not seen as a diverse city. City Data (city-data.com) reports that 89.3 percent of Piqua’s population identifies as white. Piqua High School guidance counselor and Diversity Committee member Toni Riley, one of two blacks hired full-time in the district, explained her perspective on diversity at PCS.

“Diversity represents the world that we live in,” Riley said. “Some areas have more of a race than others. Those areas are not as knowledgable or educated as they should be.”

Riley, who grew up in a majority white suburb outside of Columbus, said she “never knew” Piqua was a city that was a majority white city and it never occurred to her to consider if Piqua was “diverse enough.”

“There are some people (referring to black population) that do not want to go outside of their comfort zone,” Riley said. “They assume they wouldn’t like it (Piqua) because it’s rural. People would prefer to go to Dayton Public.”

Riley think the committee is important for several reasons. One of those reasons is when students graduate from PHS, some go to universities in different cities and said it “can be a culture shock.” With a district that teaches and celebrates diversity, students can be better prepared.

“I don’t feel like you necessarily need minorities to educate the community,” she said. “There’s a number of things we can do altogether to promote cultural awareness. If we do increase our minority staff, that would be a great success.”