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Albemarle looks to be more intentional in increasing number of teachers of color

Hiring for next school year is in the early stages in Albemarle County, but officials plan to be more deliberate in how they recruit prospective teachers of color.

Nearly 90% of the division’s teachers are white while 63.4% of students are white, according to the division’s recent human resources annual report. Division officials have said they want the teacher and student demographics to match within the next decade. This year, they’ll have more hiring opportunities as the division is projecting a need for 30 more teachers to keep up with student enrollment.

Clare Keiser, assistant superintendent for organizational development and human resource leadership, said to hire more teachers of color, division staff members work one-on-one with principals, reviewing current teacher demographics and setting long-term goals, and offer early contracts, among other strategies.

Recruiting and retaining more teachers of color is a top priority for the division and school systems around the state and country. Multiple studies have found that having a diverse group of teachers benefits all students and is a critical tool in closing achievement gaps.

As staff members prepare to hire for next school year, they are re-assessing school data and metrics to gauge progress.

“While last year we had some promising outcomes, we did not quite reap the rewards we were hoping for,” Keiser said.

The division hired 32 teachers of color for this school year out of a total class of 190. However, Keiser said the division lost 23 minority teachers. She said retention hasn’t been a key focus in previous years but that will change moving forward.

“I will be honest, in the last couple of years, I think we’ve left a lot to chance as far as retention goes,” she said.

For this current year, division staff members focused on schools with no teachers of color. Five schools don’t have any teachers of color this year despite a focus on those schools this past hiring season. Keiser said those schools — Red Hill, Scottsville, Crozet, Broadus Wood and Stony Point elementaries — don’t have as many opportunities to hire as compared with larger schools in the county.

Other schools did see small but positive changes in the number of teachers of color, according to division data.

Keiser said principals have welcomed the division’s assistance in hiring. Principals have autonomy when it comes to hiring.

“I’ve had principals say to me, if you’ve got somebody, let me know, and we’re good,” she said. “That’s a total shift in current there. I think that’s really powerful.”

This year, the division is planning to use an online questionnaire to initially screen candidates in addition to a screening interview over the phone. The online screener will help recruiters more objectively assess candidates.

“That will allow folks in human resources to really recruit,” Keiser said. “Before, we could have some top talent who came through and because we were busy doing screening interviews, we would make a little bit of an attempt to reach out to them and say, hey, we’re really interested. But there was a lot that was left to chance.”

Division staff members conducted 770 screening interviews to hire for this school year. Keiser said those interviews take about 30 minutes each.

Currently, division recruiters are attending fairs and working to build relationships with candidates.

Kesier said staff members are being more deliberate in outreach and follow-ups to candidates, letting them know that the division is interested.

“One thing I learned in this role is that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” she said. “But I do think that is something that’s going to have a very powerful outcome.”

Additionally, staff members are creating new recruitment videos featuring current teachers discussing their own experiences.

“We’re really using our own people to recruit others, and that is something that we have not capitalized on in the past,” Keiser said.

The division also is planning to be more active on social media.

Keiser cautioned that hiring more teachers of color isn’t easy and that it will take several years to see substantial changes.

“While there are challenges that will force it to take a little bit of time, it’s something that’s a long-term commitment,” she said.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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