On a frigid Saturday morning recently in Prince George’s County there was a gathering of a rare species in public schools: Male teachers.
And while there were less than 100 people in Charles Herbert Flowers High School’s cavernous auditorium in Springdale, the meeting –dubbed The First Annual Male Educator Summit: Envisioning the Future of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) — marked a start.
Among the participants of the fledgling enterprise was PGCPS Teacher of the year Albert Lewis.
“We need to be solution oriented,” Lewis told the group of male teachers and administrators. “Let’s not just address the problems today, let’s also address the solutions.”
Lewis is among the most rare of public educators, a Black male teacher.
For many of the attendees, the summit was a chance to continue the conversation launched early in President Obama’s first term by Education Secretary Arne Duncan who has been calling for more Black male teachers.
“Black men are largely underrepresented in our nation's classrooms; it has been widely reported that they make up less than 2 percent of our country's teachers,” Donald Nicolas, a 5th grade teacher at a public school in Broward County, Fla., wrote recently in Education Week.
One of the African American teachers who took part in the meeting noted that one of the major barriers to adding more Blacks to their ranks is low pay.
“You are going to work your butt off regardless of how much money you make, but if you go into it with knowing that at least you make a decent wage to have a wife and have some kids, it makes the payoff much more feasible and the payoff greater for you in the end,” Ronnie Seneque, who teaches fifth grade math and science at Barack Obama Elementary, told the AFRO.
His view was echoed by Barack Obama Elementary sixth grade math and science teacher Harold McCray.
“I think the biggest thing we need to do first is look at the finances,” he said. “A lot of times, especially in our culture, we’re taught to be the provider, and a lot of times the salaries being offered are not enough to provide for our families. That’s why a lot of people choose different occupations.”
Northview Elementary fifth grade teacher Tony Hart thought the summit was a “great beginning, although it could have been more people in attendance.”
“We need to spread the word next time and get other male teachers involved,” Hart told the AFRO. “We need to appreciate male teachers.”
The event was orchestrated by Prince George’s County Public School Board of Education member Curtis Valentine in conjunction with the Association of Supervisory & Administrative School Personnel (ASASP) and the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association (PGCEA).
Also attending were Prince George's County Council Chairman Mel Franklin, Sheriff Melvin C. High, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III and PGCPS CEO Kevin Maxwell.
High said he believes African American culture today has too many Black men in the wrong place. "We have millions of people incarcerated in jail right now," High said. "About 50 percent are African Americans and about 90 percent are males."