The Alexandria School Board last week renewed its commitment to ensuring that half of all newly hired employes be members of minority groups.
The board took the action last Wednesday as it accepted the annual report on affirmative action, which shows that 30 percent of all new teachers hired in the 1978-79 school year were members of minority groups, compared with 33.4 percent in 1977-78 and 26.4 percent in 1979-77.
The board voluntarily adopted an affirmative action plan in 1975.
Of the city's 11,000 public school students, 44 percent are black and 9 percent are members of other ethnic groups. Of the teaching staff, 29 percent are black and about 1 percent are members of other ethnic groups.
While the board renewed its goal that half of all hirees be members of minority groups, several board members and outgoing Superintendent John Bristol cast doubt on whether that goal is realistic.
Bristol, attending his last board meeting after three years as superintendent, noted, "I think it'd be highly unrealistic . . . that we can possibley achieve that (50 percent goal) in the near future."
When the staff first recommended the goal in 1977, he noted, "we knew it was a pie-in-the-sky type of goal, one we saw merit in (but) one we saw would be most difficult to achieve."
Board member William D. Euille, a member of the affirmative action advisory committee, presented the report to board members and asked that they adopt its recommendations.
He noted that Alexandria schools are"not close to" the 50 percent hiring goal and said he "questioned" whether recruiting of minorities has been vigorous enough.
Euille said he wants to see more detailed figures from the personnel staff on how many jobs have been offered to, and declined by, minorities.
Euille added, however, that while he does not think the hiring goal is unrealistic, he would be satisfied that the school system is making a "good-faith effort" in affirmative action if at least 33 percent of those hired were members of minority groups.
Shirley N. Tyler, board chairman, said, "The 50 percent goal is an important goal, but that's not to say we can necessarily achieve it. It gives us something to strive toward." She added, "I'm reasonably satisfied the staff is trying to do what it can to recruit minorities.
"It's important for youngsters to have role models (as teachers) . . . A lot of youngsters tend to identify better with people of their racial background or cultural heritage."
Bristol descibed the hiring staff as being hamstrung in its efforts to recruit minorities because of a decreasing need for teachers as enrollment continues to drop, a declining interest among young people in becoming teachers and the fact that nearby school systems pay better salaries.
"We're fishing in an empty sea," said Bristol. "The fish aren't there, and there are many fishermen" than Alexandria's hiring staff. "Maybe we need bigger bait if we're going to do a better job."
Alexandria teacher salaries are about $800 to $1,500 lower per year than those in Arlington and Fairfax County, according to John E. DuVall, assistant to the superintendent for personnel.
In the coming school year, DuVall said, that gap will lessen somewhat so that Alexandria's salaries will be about $500 to $1,200 lower than those of the other two systems.
In addition, DuVall said, teacher openings have dwindled from about 175 in 1970 and about 90 in 1975 to an estimated 40 in the coming year.
Also, teacher applications have declined by about 50 percent since 1975, DuVall said, along with a corresponding drop of about 50 percent in the numbers of students.
The report also noted there is a "significant lack" of male elementary school teachers and "under-representation" of women at administrative levels, and recommended that the hiring staff correct these imbalances. Only 13.2 percent of elementary school teachers are male. Of the 27 central office administrators, eight are women, including one black, and there is one other black official.
In other business, the board decided to impose a $10 annual student parking fee. Members also agreed that five schools whose lunches had been cooked elsewhere would again have lunches cooked at the schools in an effort to improve efficiency and food quality.
The board adopted new report cards for kindergarten and elementary school students. The elementary report card would reinstate "F" as a grade for fourth through sixth graders.
The board is in recess until Sept. 3. The new superintendent, Robert W. Peebles, who did not who attend the meeting, is expected to begin work Aug. 18.