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Editorial: ETAA board should consider diversity as it looks to add member

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How closely should a school board reflect the demographics of the campuses it oversees?

That’s a question the East Texas Advanced Academies board should consider carefully as it prepares to possibly select another member.

ETAA is one of the nonprofit organizations operating six Longview ISD schools as charter campuses. Those schools are East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, Ware East Texas Montessori Academy, Bramlette STEAM Academy, J.L. Everhart Elementary School, Johnston-McQueen Elementary School and Forest Park Middle School.

Members of the ETAA board recently named Ava Welge, a former Longview ISD trustee, to replace Sam Satterwhite, who died in November from complications of COVID-19.

Welge, who lost her LISD board seat in November to Brett Miller, is a former teacher at Forest Park Middle School and Johnston-McQueen Elementary School.

She has years of experience in classroom education and also brings with her knowledge of how ETAA operates as well as the needs of the schools it oversees.

We don’t disagree with Welge’s appointment. Her commitment to Longview ISD and its students is unquestioned, and we expect she will greatly benefit the ETAA board.

Board President Alan Amos said earlier this month that he would like the next ETAA meeting agenda to include adding a fifth board member.

We urge Amos and the rest of the board to look hard for Hispanic and Black candidates. Why? Because the majority of students at the six ETAA campuses belong to those two demographic groups. (This trend isn’t specific to ETAA. In Longview ISD as a whole, the number of Hispanic students has increased steadily over the past decade while the number of white students has steadily decreased. The Black student population has remained mostly consistent.)

The most recent data available from the Texas Education Agency, for 2018-19, show Hispanic students made up 43% of the ETAA student population at 1,590. Black students accounted for 35% of the population with 1,297, and white students made up 16.4% at 609.

Welge is one of three white ETAA board members, along with Amos and former Longview ISD Trustee Jud Murray. Board member Selwyn Willis is Black.

Unlike with the Longview ISD board, board seats for ETAA are appointed, not elected. That means Amos and the other members have a great opportunity to take their time and find the right person.

Ultimately, the best qualified candidate should be chosen, regardless of race or ethnicity. But there is great benefit in school leadership that shares and understands the cultures of the students it leads.

We hope ETAA board members agree.

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“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the desire of the flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another ...”

Galatians 5:16-17

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