EDITORIAL: York Tech makes smart hire
“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
The iconic former British prime minister has been dead for more than half a century.
His words, however, still ring true today, an ocean away right here in York County.
Fortunately, the folks at York County School of Technology have realized the opportunity that now exists after some recent, highly publicized difficulties.
The school absorbed a ton of unwanted national media attention a few months back when a video taken inside the school went viral. It showed a group of students walking through the school holding a Donald Trump campaign sign, with some saying “white power” in the background. It happened a day after November's divisive election.
Allegations then emerged of minority students at Tech dealing with harassment throughout the campaign, leading to responses from crisis teams and Gov. Tom Wolf. Protesters even took to the street in front of the school, saying administrators had turned a blind eye to the racial tensions among students for quite some time.
Well, now it seems officials at Tech have their eyes wide open.
Christopher coming on board: That became apparent when it was announced last week that the school is hiring prominent York City community activist Carla Christopher for the newly created equity coordinator position at Tech.
Christopher has championed cultural diversity for a number of groups and in a number of roles since she arrived in York County a decade ago.
So she was the right fit to help Tech become a more inclusive school. She begins her work Feb. 20.
Her main goal will be to connect the outside community with students, faculty and staff at Tech and strengthen that community relationship.
Tech, because it takes in students from all across the county, is the most diverse school in the county. When cultures that don't normally interact are brought together, there's always potential for difficulty. There's also the opportunity for learning and growth.
“I think when we only talk about diversity and equity in response to negative events, it makes it feel like a punishment rather than an opportunity,” Christopher said. “I want them to understand equity and diversity are things we are lucky to have.”
Promising start: Christopher hasn't even officially begun her new role yet, but she seems to be off to a promising start. She appears to have gotten many of the key stakeholders — students, teachers, administrators, board members, community leaders and parents — to buy into her goals.
Parents, in particular, will be vital to making this work. Teenagers have a natural rebellious streak, but they still normally follow the examples set by their parents. If the parents welcome Christopher and her ideas, the students likely will, too.
Some detractors: Of course, not everyone will applaud Christopher's hiring.
Some will see this as an unnecessary added bureaucrat and an unneeded added expense for already overburdened taxpayers.
They will question why the current Tech administration can't handle this issue. After all, that's what they're getting paid for, right?
Some will question if there is even an issue in the first place. The media, they will claim, is blowing a few isolated incidents way out of proportion.
Long-term issues at stake: Those views are shortsighted and penny-wise, but pound-foolish.
There are much larger, longer-term issues at work here.
Anyone who has lived and worked in York County for any amount of time knows there is a racism issue here.
It needs to be addressed, and there is no better place to start than at the most diverse school in the county.
Carla Christopher appears to be the right person in the right job at the right time.
We wish her good luck. She'll need it.