Local NAACP President Will Singleton gave a presentation Tuesday night asking the City Council to adopt the affirmative action policy.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — City schools have a African-American student population of 28 percent but only five teachers of color.
In City Hall, there isn't a single African-American employee.
For Will Singleton, that's "unconscionable." He wants the city to make a stronger commitment to diversifying its workforce.
"There weren't people working there of color, people who look like me. There may be one here and one there but there didn't seem to be the diversity," Singleton said.
Singleton led the effort to re-establish the local branch of the NAACP, which is now asking the city to ensure that the work force matches the demographics of the community with the adoption of a newly crafted affirmative action policy.
"We think affirmative action is the effective tool to bring about diversity, fairness and equity," Singleton told the City Council on Tuesday. "For our hometown of Berkshire County, let's make our workforce really diverse."
An affirmative action panel developed the new policy that will soon be sent to the City Council. According to Singleton, the plan creates a transparent hiring process so the city can see how many minorities are being passed over for city positions.
It also sets a hiring process that attempts to limit subjectiveness. If there are no local minority candidates qualified for a position, Singleton said the city should go outside to recruit more diverse applicants to ensure city staff reflects the population's diversity.
"If we have a commitment to diversity, having our workforce reflect the world, then we make it happen," Singleton said. "If we can't find people here, then recruit."
The policy expects results and will build in measurements to ensure the city has a commitment to hiring a diverse pool of candidates.
Meanwhile the school system needs to revamp the way it does things to end the "school to prison pipeline," he said, and concentrate on growing a diverse workforce. He said there are an array of issues such as young African-Americans being unfairly punished and sent to Juvenile Court earlier.
The city's affirmative action policy is only start of changing the culture. Singleton raised issues affecting the black community as well as social service agencies that are becoming the base of the community to "manage" problems.
"We've created in some ways, in a lot of subtle ways but they are there, a culture where we are not always encouraging success," said Ward 6 Councilor John Krol. "It is really is a critically important thing for the young people, who are our future."
He said the city shouldn't "manage" problems but instead address them at their core by implementing best practices as seen in other parts of the country. The affirmative action policy is "one tool" to changing the culture, he said.
The city had implemented a policy in the past but it was never followed.
"We didn't see a consistent year after year review," said Mary McGinnis, director of administrative services for Mayor Daniel Bianchi.
The new policy needs to be actually implemented, councilors said, or else the same thing will happen. The policy is only one step, it is the commitment to creating a diverse workforce the city needs to make changes, said Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop.
"I think the biggest thing is commitment. It is a commitment to making it happen," he said.
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I love the Berkshires, but I consider the lack of diversity to be a major drawback of living here. I for one welcome this plan and hope that it attracts diverse talent and community pillars into our region.