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More Minority Teachers Sought

Because it’s hard to recruit minority teachers, Giles County High School Principal Don Thomas is looking at other ways to attract them,

Thomas recently talked about his plans to members of the Giles County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The Giles County NAACP chapter has invited community and political leaders to speak at its meetings to improve communication with branch members.

Chapter members have asked why the number of minority teachers seems to have fallen since Giles County schools were integrated in the 1960s and 1970s.

“The objective of this meeting is to open lines of communication with this new administration so that we can be a resource for him, and can hopefully have a positive relationship before we have to come to him to address any issues,” branch secretary Kelly Hamlin wrote in a email.

Vivian Sims, a retired teacher and branch member, noted there are fewer minority teachers now than when schools were integrated.

“Do you know anything that can be done?” she asked.

County Commissioner Mike Cesarini also asked how groups like the NAACP and individuals could help the school system attract more minority teachers.

One handicap the county faces is low teacher salaries, Thomas said.

“How am I going to get them, when they can go to other school systems like Madison, (Ala.) and get $20,000 (a year) more?”

Thomas, who is from Alabama and was assistant principal at Lincoln County High School before coming to Giles County High School this past school year, said he has talked to educators in Tennessee and Alabama about attracting minority teachers.

“If we are going to get teachers, we are going to have to budget for them now,” the Giles County High School principal said,

Giles County Schools hope to share facilities such as a welding program for which equipment was received at the Tennessee Campus of Applied Technology at the Pulaski campus, Thomas said,

This would allow the local school system to use TCAT instructors, he said.

The Giles County branch of the NAACP has met with the administration of the TCAT campus in Pulaski about ways to increase minority enrollment.

Giles County schools, like other school systems, has worked out dual credit arrangements where students can earn college and technical school credit for work done in high school, Thomas said,

Martin Methodist College’s merger with the University of Tennessee to create UT Southern, a four year college, also should help the local school system, Thomas said,

With the merger, could come internships and other opportunities for Giles County School students, he said,

This would help crate interest in teaching among Giles County school students, which hopefully would make it easier to attract them into teaching here when they are ready to graduate, Thomas said.

Thomas, who moved to Tennessee from Alabama and played his high school football at Lincoln County, played as a lineman at Middle Tennessee State University and was a pro football prospect before back surgery.

Students, especially those who play high school sports, need what Thomas termed a “fall forward” plan instead of a “fall back” plan if their plans to continue playing sports don’t work out.

On another matter, Thomas said 200 of 700 GCHS students are taking classes this summer to make up for what they missed during the 2020-21 school year.

Due to the pandemic, students did not attend classes in person much of the last school year, often taking courses virtually or by computer.

The state has budgeted money for these classes to help provide more help for students.

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