In just a few weeks a new California middle school will open.
Rutherford B. Gaston is slated to open in Fresno, and black community and church leaders are calling on the Unified School District to reconsider its hiring of a white African-American, Latino and Southeast Asian studies teacher.
At an early morning news conference Monday, a small group of concerned citizens led by Rev. Karen Crozier met in front of the school on Church Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
People at the gathering said the new school, which is the first southwest Fresno middle school in decades, needs teachers who reflect the ethnic and racial background of its students.
Crozier and others were dismayed to learn the person hired to teach the school’s three cultural studies classes is white. District officials initially considered hiring a teacher of color, she said, but ultimately hired Peter Beck, a former teacher at Hoover High School.
“We’re just saying what the community wants. We didn’t fight for a white male or female teacher to educate our babies,” Crozier said. “We still are at these racial fault lines, and we want someone who will be able to think critically about those racial fault lines and how do we help heal, to restore the problems that have existed.”
According to District spokeswoman Micheline Goldne, Beck is one of only four teachers in Fresno Unified with experience teaching the three cultural studies classes he’ll be responsible for at the middle school.
She did not conform any details about who the district interviewed for the position, but said that Beck is the best person for the job.
Beck has 10 years of experience teaching Latino Studies courses and two years of experience teaching African-American courses. He also led Hoover’s Men’s Alliance, a leadership class for at-risk teens for four years.
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Should African American and Latino Studies courses only be taught by blacks and Latinos?
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