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N.Y.C. Board Poised To Adopt Plan for Hiring

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Despite a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have raised doubts about the legal status of affirmative-action plans, the New York City Board of Education is considering adoption of a far-reaching proposal that would seek to ensure that more women and minority applicants are hired at virtually every level of the school system.

If the plan is adopted, as is widely expected, it would cap a lengthy debate that has prevented the district from approving such a comprehensive policy in the past.

It would also give officials of the nation's largest school system a tool that is commonly used in other urban districts to increase the number of minority employees.

Forty of the 52 districts responding to a recent survey by the National School Boards Association reported having affirmative-action plans affecting at least some of their employment decisions.

The policy under consideration in New York does not impose specific quotas for minority hiring, but sets a goal that each employment category reflect the racial balance in the available applicant pool.

"Recurring interaction with teachers and administrators from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds is necessary to engender the respect of children and community members for the system," the proposed policy states.

"Further," it continues, "it enables children to develop the capacity for cooperative activity and interpersonal communication with persons different from themselves."

The policy would require the schools chancellor to develop specific plans for meeting each of the goals systemwide. Each of the decentralized system's 32 community districts would have to develop its own affirmative-action plan.

Each district and school division would be required to increase recruiting for minority candidates, expand training to permit current employees to earn promotions, and continually monitor the impact of its efforts.

Goals and timetables would be developed and implemented only when there is "substantial and persistent" underutilization of women and minorities compared with the available labor pool, the proposal states.

Officials who did not comply with the plan could be disciplined or, in extreme cases, fired.

One provision with potentially major consequences calls on the chancellor to review the results of examinations used by the New York City Board of Examiners, a semi-autonomous body that screens teacher candidates, to determine whether these tests have an adverse impact on minorities and women.

Currently, roughly 70 percent of the system's teachers and principals are white, while almost 80 percent of its student enrollment comes from a broad array of minority groups.

Implementation of the plan could be aided over the next several years if the district's aging workforce experiences as many retirements as are currently anticipated, school officials said.

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