LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A community challenged by racist stereotypes wants to recruit more teachers of color to its classrooms.
Coach Chelsea Hoke works with Bullitt County basketball teams at Zoneton Middle School and North Bullitt High School.
"I grew up here," Hoke said. "I have brothers and sisters still in school here, and I really got into coaching before I decided I was going to teach."
But the African American substitute says on many days, she's the only minority teacher her students see.
"I've been working for about two years," she said.
There are only about a dozen teachers of color in Bullitt County schools -- a dozen of any color in a school system of more 12,000 kids, and around 1,000 of whom are minority students.
"This is the first year they're putting an intentional effort in looking at the numbers," said Superintendent Fellow Dr. Geneva Starks.
Starks is completing a two-year program aimed at training more minority superintendents in Kentucky. While working with Bullitt County, the former JCPS principal helped the school system develop a new strategic plan. It made a more diverse workforce part of the Superintendent's evaluation.
"We need to make sure we are preparing kids for not just career-ready, not just college-ready, but also life-ready, which means looking at individuals that do not look like them," Starks said.
To achieve the goal, Bullitt County Schools is forming partnerships with historically black colleges and universities, promoting state scholarships for students of color who wish to study education, recruiting in churches of various faiths and bringing minority employees to job fairs.
"Because what happens then is people then say, 'Okay, it's safe,'" Starks said. "Because Bullitt County has a stereotype that people of color are not welcome."
Starks has called Bullitt County home for the last 15 years, but says the district is also challenged by schools in Louisville which pay more,
Hoke remains optimistic for the changes.
"The county is definitely growing and becoming more diverse," Hoke said.
The substitute is up for a full-time faculty position at North Bullitt and calls teaching at home a slam dunk.
School leaders say they will not put color over qualifications and the best candidates will still get the job but they will search from a broader pool and hope to double the number of minority teachers next year
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