Schools close to hitting goal of hiring 13 teachers of color by 2020

Ntezeho Kiruhura is one of the first students in the district to participate in the Grow Your Own program, a new recruitment effort that administrators hope will lessen the racial divide between students and teachers in the district.

 

An effort to recruit more teachers of color to the Sioux Falls School District this summer helped move the needle on a longstanding classroom diversity gap.

 

The district hired nine new teachers of color this summer, bringing the number of non-white teachers in its schools to 66 out of around 1,500 teachers.

 

That ratio significantly lags student diversity, which has flourished in recent decades. White students now account for less than two-thirds of enrollment.

 

The district is happy with the progress, which puts it within four hires of hitting a five-year target that Superintendent Brian Maher this spring called a moonshot.

 

The goal is to hire a mix of teachers who "more closely match the student population," but the first step in that effort takes only a small step toward parity in the racial makeup of kids and their teachers. 

 

Previously: Why white families should want diverse teachers

 

The district's latest strategic plan proposed adding 13 non-white teachers by 2020, a goal the district is likely to achieve years ahead of schedule with only modest recruiting efforts.

 

“If we can accomplish it in our second year, which it appears maybe we can, then, yeah, maybe we need to reevaluate,” Maher said.

 

Nine non-white hires in a year is an increase from previous years, said Assistant Superintendent Jamie Nold.

 

That uptick comes from extra efforts to recruit non-white applicants by calling universities and asking about students completing their teaching degree, Nold said.

 

At this rate, the district will meet its goal before its long-term plans to grow the pipeline of diverse teachers begin to take effect. 

 

Schools have begun a "Grow Your Own" program that encourages high school students to consider a career in teaching as well as an internship program for adults with bachelor's degrees who might want to try changing careers to become teachers.

 

All of these efforts are part of the district's strategic plan, which was released in its final stage last week. The strategic planning process began nearly two years ago with goals ranging from increasing graduation rates to improving attendance.

 

Teacher diversity became a priority in that plan after schools recognized they haven't moved the needle in more than two decades. 

 

Ninety-eight percent of Sioux Falls teachers are white, a percentage that's held steady since the early '90s. 

 

School Board President Kate Parker, who worked on the formation of the strategic plan, couldn’t say where the specifics of the goal to increase teacher diversity came from, but she didn’t see the increase of 13 teachers in a district with more than 20,000 students as too low of a bar.

 

That said, if the goal is met, she doesn’t anticipate schools will rest on their laurels.

 

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we aimed higher,” Parker said.

 

Ultimately, she added, the goal is for the teaching staff to reflect the student population in terms of diversity. 

 

That goal is a far cry from 13 more teachers, but Maher is happy with the way things are headed and plans to keep pushing forward. 

 

"We have a strategic plan," Maher said. "We're following it. We're making progress. In the area of hiring diversity, am I satisfied? No."

 

 

By: Megan Raposa

Source: argusleader.com