SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Members of racially diverse groups in the Salt Lake community are upset with the Salt Lake School District because of the lack of people of color in leadership positions. The school board says while their concerns are valid a lot of the information out there to support their claims is misrepresented.
Last Tuesday the Salt Lake School Board approved the assigning of three administrators by the superintendent, all of which were Caucasian, and all part of a recent reorganization plan. And with more than half of the student population in the district composed of minorities, they believe they’re not being properly represented in the leadership.
“We view it as a form of discrimination and as a need for us as a diverse group,” said Josie Valdez a Salt Lake City resident, “We need a diverse group and culture.”
“Everything is being handled politically by people who just want one thing and they are not willing to listen or be flexible,” added Jose Enriquez, the former title 3 school director of Utah.
And Michael Clara, a member of the board of the Salt Lake School District added, “He [Superintendent Withers] made the selections without telling us and made sure that the school board voted for his candidates.”
The group says the superintendent overstepped his authority and has not followed the law or the procedures outlined in the Salt Lake City School Board Handbook. The group demands hiring practices be followed to allow for qualified minorities to apply for consideration.
But the school district says the superintendent is within his authority to choose those administrators, which is outlined in his contract, the Salt Lake Association of School Administrators (SLASA), the posted superintendency Salary Schedule, and state law, and say he has done nothing illegal. Furthermore, the district says the reorganization plan is meant to be transitional for a new superintendent, as the current one will be retiring at the end of the school year.
“This is not intended or seen to be a permanent fixture,” said Jason Olsen spokesperson for the Salt Lake School District. “It’s to provide that stability for the next few months but also flexibility for the incoming superintendent.”
The district says the superintendent made the selections in a manner that would not disrupt what was happening in school or overload workers and to make for an easy transition when it is time for the change. However, the district says they are working to make sure their leaders reflect the demographics of their students in the future.
“Superintendent Withers has received some recommendations from both people within the district and outside the district on what he could have done better or what we can do moving forward to help those administrators of color,” added Olsen.
The district also maintains that their goal and priority is to continue to work towards bringing in more people of color. They say while they’re working on it, it wont happen over night and they say the allegations of racism are hurtful. They say using one particular issue to paint a bigger picture of how the system functions i unfair as they say the district has been working towards their goal of more diversity for years.
The school district also adds that they are working with many from diverse communities within the district to continue to improve and address their needs.