LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Administrators at duPont Manual High School can do more to develop a sense of inclusivity and belonging at the school, according to a culture and climate audit conducted after a pair of students secretly recorded Manual Principal Jerry Mayes making racially insensitive remarks.
The audit is one investigation called for in the aftermath of Mayes’ recorded comments, in which he compared instances he felt discriminated against with those experienced by African-Americans.
The October recording came as two student trainers on Manual’s football team discussed kneeling during the national anthem, similar to those in the National Football League in protest of racial inequality.
Mayes told the students he had been fired from four jobs for being white and experienced discrimination because he was a Protestant in a Catholic community. He also criticized Jefferson County Public Schools Chief Equity Officer John Marshall during the meeting.
Mayes, who was reprimanded for his comments regarding JCPS colleagues, apologized as did the mother of one of the students who recorded the conversation, who said two teachers directed her son to record interactions with Mayes. One of the teachers denied such a directive.
The recording prompted some to call for Mayes’ removal and former Manual students to recount questionable interactions with him, such as a transgender student who said Mayes asked him inappropriate questions about surgeries he received.
Lexington-based Millennium Learning Concepts conducted the climate and culture review at Manual and found that while the high school has a diverse student body, some feel “a lack of belonging or appear to be marginalized within the learning community.”
Auditors interviewed teachers, students and parents as part of their examination of Manual and found that parents mostly had positive experiences with teachers and staff there. Teachers praised Mayes, but some voiced their concerns with the current school administration, according to the report.
“Students shared that after being at Manual for a few years their eyes have opened to the inequalities that take place and that subtle differences exist,” auditors wrote. “There is very little blatant disrespect or personal mistreatment, but most staff and students recognize that it does exist for their minority peers.”
Auditors noted that teachers and staff work to promote a sense of community at Manual, and they recommended implementing a “whole child approach” that develops leadership and communication skills. Cultural clubs have helped give students a voice on issues important to them, but the audit said those groups “lack real direction and become conduits for disgruntlement without restraint.”
“Students shared that they feel the school appears to be more concerned with its image than the rights and feelings of its students,” the report says. “When a situation or group appears to be controversial the students are made to feel as if their thoughts and concerns are not valid. Their feeling of community and belonging generally came from interaction with classmates and students of like culture and background, somewhat from staff, and very little from administration.”
The audit makes a number of recommendations for Manual’s administration and stakeholders, such as fostering an environment where polarizing topics can be discussed, continuing diversity training, promoting inclusion and acceptance of all students, reviewing diversity policies, and identifying barriers and possible changes to increase numbers of Latino and African-American students in advanced-placement classes.
JCPS Communications Director Allison Martin said Manual staff received optional professional development in response to Millennium Learning Concepts’ findings on March 1. A broader examination of Manual is ongoing, she said.
“When the review is complete, we will create an action plan on how to positively move forward and address any concerns,” Martin said in an email to WDRB News Tuesday.
The audit can be read here:
Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.
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