Jefferson County Board of Education work session minority recruiting.jpg

The Jefferson County Board of Education met July 16, 2019, to discuss minority recruitment efforts.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools is developing a teacher residency program meant to attract more minorities to local classrooms.

It’s one of four initiatives discussed during Tuesday’s Jefferson County Board of Education work session to develop a more diverse staff at JCPS and boost the share of contract work for minority-owned businesses.

The residency program is the latest development in the district’s push to hire more minorities as teachers. Last week, JCPS unveiled a partnership with Simmons College of Kentucky for a one-year “transition to teaching” program for students at the historically black institution.

“This will be a great way to get them into the teaching profession, get them their certification and ensure the highest likelihood that they will be successful as a teacher too,” JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said. “It’s a pathway that we haven’t had before that I think will really help us produce effective teachers.”

John Marshall, the district’s chief equity officer, said the residency program is currently under development and, like other initiatives discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, will need board approval before moving forward.

He noted that the board already approved the position of teacher residency director as part of the district’s reorganization plan. The person hired in that role, Sylena Fishback, has already started meeting with other school districts that have similar programs in place.

Marshall said he hopes that within a year, the district will have its first group of aspiring teachers ready to begin the program.

“This year’s a building year, so Dr. Fishback is going to design, get information, get understanding as to what it takes, and then we really kick it off around this time next year with a cohort,” he told reporters after the work session.

It’s unclear how big the first cohort of prospective teachers will be and how much the residency program will cost if ultimately approved by the school board. As part of its racial equity plan, JCPS hopes to boost its minority teaching staff by 2% by 2020, which would mean that 18% of its teaching force would be comprised of teachers of color.

Minorities make up 56% of the district’s student population, with black students counting for 36% of all JCPS students.

The residency program would rely on five to seven experienced teachers at one elementary, one middle and one high school with large high-need student populations to act as mentors for those who hope to one day join their ranks, said Devon Horton, chief of schools for JCPS. Master teachers and participants could also receive a stipend for working in the program, he said.

“We haven’t decided on the amount because we want them committed to the training full-time,” Horton said.

The goal, Horton said, is to have those new teachers contracted to work in some the district’s neediest schools for up to five years.

Horton said the district is also close to picking a university to partner with for a one-year master’s degree program for the prospective teachers.

The teacher residency was one of three minority recruitment and retention programs discussed at Tuesday’s work session. The others would create a series of career pathways in the district’s skilled-trade jobs and ensure a more diverse slate of finalists for school principal vacancies.

Marshall said research has shown more diverse teaching and administrative staffs have yielded greater senses of belonging for minority students and provided them better access to academic programs like gifted and talented classes.

“When we do all that, we understand systemically that it’ll move the work forward because of sense of belonging and because of the high expectations that minority principals tend to evoke with students of color,” Marshall told reporters after the work session.

Diane Porter, chairwoman of the school board, said she had heard from families throughout her nine years on the board whose children had never been taught by or been in schools led by minorities.

“I think Dr. Pollio has been very aggressive in changing that, but clearly, clearly we must do better,” Porter said during the work session.

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