Rooney Rule to Promote Equity and Diversity in School Leadership by: Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

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Most people “flat out” feel uncomfortable when conversing about race in sports, politics, education, media, law enforcement, etc.  In just about every facet of our lives, there are elements of race and social injustice that exist in our country.

To turn a blind eye to it, or to think that it is simply going to go away is insulting to those that have faced and continue to face racism in this country. Race issues exist, and permeate throughout American society, and they will continue to do so, until we come from behind the proverbial “steel curtain” (awesome foreshadow), and have candid conversations about the importance of racial diversity Educational Leadership.

The Rooney Rule requires that an NFL team with a head-coaching vacancy must interview one or more minority candidates for the position; given the NFL’s woeful history of considering and hiring minority candidates to fill head-coaching slots until the implementation of the Rooney Rule, the question can be reasonably asked as to whether Pittsburgh would have even considered Mike Tomlin as a candidate for the Steeler head job without the Rooney Rule (Proxmire, 2008).

Moreover, what about a Rooney Rule in public education?  I mean– real, organic, purposeful conversations centered on school leadership in areas that serve high poverty families of color.  Urban school districts would benefit greatly from having more minority male candidates as teachers, leaders, superintendents etc.

Recently, NYC has acknowledged the need for more African-American, Asian, and Latino male teachers, and they have pulled out the think tank in order to make this a reality.

What are all of the other school districts in the country waiting for?  This is a common sense move.

Diversifying the field of teaching will take a high level of commitment from Districts.  NYCDOE should be commended for taking the initiative to create and promote high levels of diversity in its teachers.  The success of this venture will be measured on NYC’s ability to retain these male teachers. I’d certainly be interested in interviewing a group of these teachers after several years on the job, to assess the levels of additional support offered to them by NYC. 

I hope that they will make the same commitment to recruiting, retaining, and supporting school leaders of color as well.

What if for every principal and school superintendent vacancy, urban school districts had to (in good faith) interview a qualified minority candidate? The action alone would mean the world to minority families that have lost faith in the system.

The Rooney Rule casts a spotlight on several critical workplace diversity issues, including the importance of having managerial leadership reflect the diversity of a workforce, strategies for ensuring that the best people for the job are considered, and tools for combating unconscious bias in hiring and promotion decisions (Proxmire, 2008).

If we can do this in a sport, why can’t we do this in education?  Why can’t a school’s staff mimic the population of its students?

Works Cited: Proxmire, D. (2008). Coaching diversity: The rooney rule, its application and ideas for expansion. American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, 1-9.




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