New JCPS demographic numbers reveal struggle to hire minority te - WDRB 41 Louisville News

New JCPS demographic numbers reveal struggle to hire minority teachers

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – New demographic figures released by Jefferson County Public Schools show the district continues to struggle to recruit and hire minority teachers as part of its effort to have a high quality workforce that mirrors its student population.

Last school year, 52 percent – roughly 52,000 of the district's 101,000 students – classified themselves as being non-white, said Michael Raisor, chief operations officer for JCPS.

“Our teaching staff tells a grossly different story,” Raisor told school board members Monday night. “We have 15 percent of teachers identifying themselves as minority and 85 percent identifying themselves as white. This is our trend and it seems to be holding. We are not satisfied with this, and we have to do something about it.”

The staffing numbers were part of a larger report compiled by the district that gave school board members an update on trends and statistics surrounding teacher staffing across JCPS.

“We have two things going on here – we want highly qualified people and we want the staff to reflect the diversity of our community,” said Linda Duncan, a board member who represents southern Jefferson County. “It is critical we get out there and beat the bushes on recruiting minority staff members.”

Among the other concerns for JCPS – overall teacher experience, a large percentage of teachers nearing retirement and a shortage of math, science, technology and English as a Second Language teachers, Raisor said.

“Eighty percent of our teachers have three or more years of experience,” he said. “That sounds impressive until you realize that 20 percent don't – that totals 658 teachers this year with less than 3 years' experience.”

Even more problematic -- the large number of inexperienced teachers at the district's lowest-performing schools – a trend that has plagued JCPS for years.

The figures show that just over half – 58 percent – of the teachers at the district's priority middle schools have more than three years of teaching experience. The number is slightly higher at the district's priority high schools, where 65 percent of JCPS priority high schools have more experienced teachers.

“This also mirrors the inexperience of the principal (at priority schools),” Superintendent Donna Hargens said. “We have our least experienced principals and teachers with our students who need the most intervention and support. Those two things are not going to get us where we need to go.”

The National Education Association predicts there will be 40 percent minority students and only 5 percent minority teachers over the next 20-50 years. It's a critical shortage of education workers and role models the NEA says may contribute to a worsening urban plight.

Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, agrees that the district's low percentage of minority teachers – and the large number of inexperienced teachers at low-performing schools – is problematic.

“It's important for a diverse population of learners to see teachers who reflect that diversity and serve as role models for them,” he said, adding that he believes the recent board-approved teacher salary increase will help with recruiting efforts.

“This allows us to be more competitive in recruiting minority teachers to begin their careers in education with us,” McKim said.

He also acknowledged JCTA needs to work with JCPS to “find ways to attract and keep teachers at the district's priority schools.”

“The reality is that you cannot trap a teacher at a school where they do not want to teach for very long because they will either leave the district or leave the profession,” McKim said.

“The district and the state are part of the problem,” he said. “With all of the paperwork, red tape, extra requirements imposed on teachers at those schools, it literally drives them out of those buildings. They need to own that. We are willing to look at all sorts of options, but that needs to be on the table, too.”

Each year, Raisor said the district receives approximately 3,000 teaching applications and typically hires between 500-600 new teachers. He said despite an effort to recruit minority teachers, Raisor said the district is not doing a good enough job.

Of the 1,429 teachers applications the district received in 2014, only 214 (15 percent) came from minority candidates. And of the 522 new teachers hires this year, only 72 (14.5 percent) were minority.

“We say in our strategic plan that we want teachers who mirror our student population,” Raisor said. That is not happening.”

Board member Carol Haddad noted the district's need to hire more bilingual teachers.

“And not just Hispanic (teachers),” Haddad said. “We need Arabic teachers – (we have) so many different languages in our schools, we need to have teachers and administration that look like our student population.”

Raisor said the district's English as a Second Language student population is among the “fastest growing.”

School board chairwoman Diane Porter, who represents western Jefferson County, pebbled the administration with questions she would like answered.

“We haven't seen increase in minority teacher hiring in over five years,” Porter said. “This is a problem. What is our plan to deal with this issue? Do we have a goal? Is there a strategy? Where should we go to recruit? What is our budget for recruiting, is it enough? What are other districts doing to recruit?”

Porter said African-American parents have told her that in their child's entire educational career, “he or she has had less than five teachers or administrators who look like them.”

“How would you respond to that?” Porter asked Raisor.

“I would say that is a tragedy,” Raisor said.

“So we have a problem?” Porter asked.

“We do have a problem,” Raisor replied.

Raisor said JCPS “needs more partnerships” with local universities and needs to make a better effort to recruit minority teacher candidates at schools like Kentucky State University. Last year, the district hired only two teachers from KSU, Raisor said.

"We can guarantee openings where many small districts can't,” he said. “We need to facilitate those partnerships.”

Porter said JCPS must go beyond that, mentioning that the district must process applications quicker.

“It takes an extensive amount of time to process people,” she said. “In turn, people leave us and go elsewhere. That has to stop.”

Raisor agreed.

“This is where we stand right now,” he told members. “If we come back a year from now with same numbers, that is unacceptable.”

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.
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