Administrators recognize lack of diversity among faculty

Teachers, staff serve as role models


Lauryn Woods

At last month’s multicutural assembly in the Welch Activity Center, the diversity of the student body was on full display. The same level of diversity is not the case for the current faculty and staff, and school administrators are attempting to address this issue.

Andrew De Las Alas, Reporter

This school prides itself on diversity, and school officials have recognized the lack of diversity among the faculty and staff and is making efforts to address the situtation.

While more than 20 percent of the student body is minority, for those students, the chance of them having a teacher of the same ethnicity is slim at best.  

An article in The New York Times introduced the idea that the diversity of a school’s teachers can impact on the students and do so in a positive way. 

For instance, an African-American male teacher might better resonate and connect with an African American student through a shared identity. A teacher of a minority population might better connect by being able to relate through shared culture, like a Hispanic teacher being able to communicate in Spanish to a Hispanic student. Or they may serve as simply a positive role model. However, the article notes that the vast majority of America’s teachers are white women.

Principal Mr. Dave Worland acknowledged this fact. He said, “We have seven folks that work in the guidance office, they’re all awesome and they do a great job but they’re all white.” 

While this isn’t necessarily a negative, Worland said some minority students may prefer a minority counselor.

Worland said, “We are blessed with some minority males in and out of the classroom like Mr. (Ken) Barlow (but) it doesn’t elude me that we could benefit more from African-Americans educators.”

In the future Worland hopes that the demographic of the faculty and staff can mirror that of the demographics around Cathedral, like Marion County and the surrounding Indianapolis area. If, for example, Indianapolis has an Hispanic population of 10 percent, in theory 10 percent of the faculty would match this demographic.

Worland said that he wants to see a continued diversification of the faculty and staff population, and he empathized that it isn’t simply filling a quota. “We still want mission appropriate adults. We want to bring mission appropriate students, and it’s not different for the adults we’re going to hire.”  

The current impact of minority population teachers and staff is evident in his eyes. Worland noticed the positive effect on students Mr. Chris Thomas, who was hired this year as a permanent substitute. “I do notice in the hallways and when he is teaching that he has a good rapport among all populations,” said Worland. 

Worland said that he heard about Thomas from people in the community who had said good things about him. Worland said, “If there are adults who meet Cathedral ideals” that students, teachers and parents should let him know, so he can get a jump start on hiring candidates, including candidates of minority backgrounds.

The effect of a minority adult is not lost on students. Regarding Thomas, sophomore Janae Jones-Moore said, “There’s not one person in the whole school that doesn’t like him,” and that you get “a whole different vibe from him.” She also appreciates the environment an adult of a minority population can provide “That’s why we come in here. You can talk about things,” she said in reference to vice president for diversity Mr. Ken Barlow’s office.

Junior Danielle Levingston said, “I think overall it’s important for minority students to see minority teachers in positions of power.” Levingston said teachers need to be aware of cultural differences in the classroom and that some comments may come across as insensitive to minorities. 

Barlow, whose office one afternoon in late October was full of African-American students laughing and talking, said, “I think Cathedral is very conscientious in having a diverse staff and student body.” However, he said, “I also think Cathedral has done a good job (on promoting diversity). Can it do better? Yes.”

Barlow said he feels that minority teachers have helped make a positive impact on the school. He named Mr. Marcus Robinson and Mr. Harold Spooner as key figures in the past. Both found success after Cathedral, as Robinson started Tindley Accelerated Schools and Spooner became the head men’s soccer coach at Lawrence Central. 

Barlow shares Worland’s view on the school reflecting the area around it. “It would be helpful not only for the school, but the community if our school reflected our community,” Barlow said.

Barlow said he hopes that seeing minority teachers can help displace any previously held stereotypes, and “it’s important to see people doing all kinds of things.”

English teacher Mr. Matt Panzer, who is Cuban on his mother’s side and who is a fluent speaker of Spanish, said, “I think for anyone it’s good for a room to be diverse and I’m glad I can add to that diversity.” He pointed out one of the school’s values is diversity, and the school  works toward increasing disversity among the faculty and staff.

While working in East Los Angeles, Panzer said he felt his background definitely helped him connect with students, as 90 percent of the student body was Hispanic. 

Panzer said, “All the data has shown that we need it. And we’re doing it.” Minority teachers can help share their experiences not just students in the same minority group, but all students, and help initiate an exchange through exposure.

Mr. Dennis Thomas, vice principal for academics, also noted that the faculty and staff have participated in training and professional development regarding this issue in order to better serve all students. n