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Local leaders working to get more Black teachers in schools

Posted at 12:21 AM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 13:28:44-05

MARION COUNTY — A group of local leaders is working to shape the next generation of Black educators by setting an example of what's possible.

Jason Smith, Jeremy Coleman, Brian Dinkins, and Pastor Ken Sullivan Jr. are all graduates of Arlington High School. They also all serve in administrative roles with Indiana Public Schools and Warren Township Schools, with the exception of Sullivan.

The group is working to ensure their accomplishments encourage Black youth to believe and achieve their greatness.

"How profound, how powerful could it be if there were more Black men and women teachers?" said Jason Smith, Principal at Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School of Warren Township.

It's a topic that has many layers but is an important conversation to set more Black children up for success.  

"White teachers, Asian, Hispanics, they do a wonderful job. They have a heart for kids. They love kids. But how powerful could it be if our kids saw more representation of them? And like Coleman says, 'You can't be what you don't see,'" said Smith.  

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A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that Black students who have one Black teacher in elementary school are 13% more likely to enroll in college. Those who have two Black teachers are 32% more likely to go to college.

Smith emphasized the importance of Black youths seeing positive representations of themselves.

"A man robbed the bank versus a Black man robbing the bank. The villains in the movies, the rappers, and basketball players. That belief is huge. A lot of times I end talks with my students like, 'Hey, I have high expectations for you, and I believe in you," said Smith.

"We were being groomed to be the same servant leaders without even knowing it," said Coleman, principal at Brookview Elementary School in Warren Township.

Once the men graduated from high school, they went off to college, graduated, and found themselves teaching back at IPS before taking it to the next level.  

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"It just happened naturally that we bonded together to say 'How do we do this work in a way that brings another level of visibility for Black men, who are in front of children that may not see that at home?'" said Dinkins, Indianapolis Public Schools administrator.  

Dinkins started the journey to get his doctorate at Ball State University and encouraged his friends to come along, with one goal in mind: change.  

"Having folks see what you don't see and believe in you and pour into you. So yeah, that brotherhood there is strong," said Smith.  

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"We really need to help these young people understand, we believe in you. We see potential that you don't see and it's our job to pull that out of you," said Pastor Sullivan of New Direction Church.  

The group says they want to make having more Black teachers and administrators an obtainable goal.  

"Now someone may be watching and go, you know what maybe principal-ship is for me. Maybe I am a teacher. Maybe I do want to put a suit and tie on and be a professional," said Coleman.  

Creating more opportunities to bring representation. The men started a nationwide initiative at Arlington High School, the 'dad program' and the 'a-men program,’ inviting more men to walk the halls and mentor students.