Marco Clarke, a senior at Georgetown Day School, said he likes having black instructors because he can easily discuss his problems with them. Through its Teacher Recruitment Program, the Black Student Fund is trying to fulfill the needs of Clarke and other black students at private schools.
The nonprofit Black Student Fund has helped to place 39 black teachers at private schools in the Washington area. Ads are placed in educational journals and flyers are distributed at education departments of area universities in hopes of attracting black applicants.
Gwen Thompson, Black Student Fund program director, said, "The independent schools say they don't know where we are; if we exist. We saw a need for black instructors at independent schools so we're trying to fill the need." Nine black teachers were hired through the program last year.
Thompson said many of the schools are interested in candidates whose background is English, math or history.
Black Student Fund Executive Director Barbara Patterson said, "It's ludicrous that there are so few black instructors in private schools. We have 50 schools and we have less than six percent in the schools. Not having black teachers in the school makes the statement that basically says the school does not value the black educated person, if they did, they would hire them."
Cleveland Bryant, one of four black instructors at Georgetown Day School out of a faculty of about 45 said he was hired through the teacher recruitment program. He said it is "terribly important and an absolute necessity to have black instructors" because schools need black role models -- male or female.
Bryant said he could have received a salary up to $7,000 more if he had chosen public school but he preferred the warmth and eagerness of Georgetown Day School students.
Music teacher Marjory Saunders at the National Cathedral School also was hired through the recruitment program said it has been three years since a black teacher has been hired. She suggested that in many predominantly white private schools, "the administration's thought pattern is not to hire a black teacher."
Headmaster Earl G. Harrison Jr. of Sidwell Friends said that of a faculty of 177, there are 22 blacks either on the staff or faculty. He agreed with Saunder's assessment but works to reverse such tendencies. According to Harrison, it's "extremely important in the life of the faculty that the interest and concerns of blacks in America be voiced."
Harrison said some black teachers do not choose private schools because they want higher standards of public education and also because they can reach a greater number of blacks through public schools. He said he would like to have more blacks teaching science and math but there are not a lot of black candidates in those disciplines.
Headmaster J. Gregory Morgan of National Cathedral School said that when he came to the school seven years ago, there was only one black teacher. Since then, three have been hired, two of them through the Black Student Fund's recruitment program. Morgan said a factor in the small number of black teachers may be that of the blacks who go to college, many choose fields that pay better than teaching.
He said a feeling of isolation also may be a reason some black teachers don't apply to predominantly white private schools.
Meanwhile, Clarke said, having black instructors is a comfort to him. There is also the factor, he said, of "not being told what to do by only one race."
Saunders said the presence of black teachers at private schools is important because "students need to know that blacks are in professional fields. They need to know that we just don't clean up and drive buses."
Ed Green, a junior at Georgetown Day, said, "It's good to see a black face around besides your own."