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The untruths about minority teacher hiring in Jonesboro

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2013 at 6:03 pm

(published in The Sun on August 8, 2013)

The untruths about minority teacher hiring in Jonesboro

I read with great interest your recent article titled, “Minority teachers tough to find in NEA” that a former student posted on Facebook. This article presented an issue that has plagued school districts in that region for decades without solutions presented. I want to herein shed some light on this troublesome issue.

School districts in the region are not truly interested in hiring minority candidates for teaching in their schools. During my tenure at Arkansas State University, we recruited more minority students to participate in the state-funded Minority Teacher Scholars Program than any other four-year institution in the state.

For years, we recruited, mentored and coached high quality students to become classroom teachers. Our students were well prepared to meet the teaching and learning needs of the area school districts, but few of our students were ever offered jobs. Many of these (former students) teachers have gone on to earn master’s degrees, doctorates and certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

In 2000, more than 20 minority students graduated from ASU with teaching degrees from the Department of Teacher Education. That year three of those students were offered positions with Jonesboro Public Schools — one Filipino American and two African Americans. Several others were granted interviews, but were not offered positions in area schools.

These students were well qualified and were coached through the interview process. They both dressed the part and spoke the language in efforts to be successful.

What happened to those students is unconscionable in a district that claims to want to recruit minority teachers. The teaching positions were offered (in April) to non-minority candidates, the sons and daughters of other educators and community folk in the district. It wasn’t until July of that year that two other minority students were offered teaching positions. They had already accepted jobs elsewhere, but one chose to accept the position offered by Jonesboro and remains a teacher there today.

Jonesboro has many minority classroom teachers who commute daily to other school districts to teach. Most of them were never offered a position with either school district in Craighead County, although that would have been their first choice. It is my understanding that interviews for positions are held in late March to early April and that jobs are offered before ASU’s May graduation. When students are not offered positions by graduation, many of them have no choice but to vacate their Jonesboro housing and either return home or move to a district that has offered them a position. They cannot wait for the district to make up its mind or for the leftovers of non-minority candidates.

There has been no real plan or policy in place in the area school districts to effectively recruit minority classroom teachers because recruiting these individuals is not a district or community priority. Each year excuses are given about not being able to find minority teachers or recruit them to come to Jonesboro. Perhaps if district leaders continue to spout those untruths, then they and others in the community will come to think of their statements as facts. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Minority teachers will come to Jonesboro and teach, but the district has to make a sincere, not half-hearted effort, to recruit and retain them in their classrooms. It is never enough to send postcards and to show up at job fairs to get those who you say you want in your classrooms. Present day teacher candidates use much more sophisticated means of interacting with others.

Minority recruits want to know that you are interested in them as human beings in their personal as well as professional growth and development, the same level of interest that you show to non-minority candidates. And they do not want to feel as if they are the consolation prize — that is, they got the jobs that other candidates turned down. They want meaningful human interactions that show that you see the value, worth and promise that each human being brings. They don’t want district leftovers. Like other candidates, they want to be treated with dignity and respect.

Here are some possible solutions. Hire someone like Dr. Lillie Fears to help the district(s) recruit prospective candidates. There are folk in the teacher education programs across the region and state that can identify current students who would be excellent classroom teachers.

Develop a vision and a written plan for recruiting minority teachers with action steps attached that show that you value having minority teachers in your classrooms to meet the ever-increasing need of mentorship for children of color. Increase your recruitment efforts showing that you are interested in minority teachers, and hold each other (district administrators) accountable for annual results.

Do more to connect in meaningful ways with minority teachers. Find out who they are and their interests. After all, they are human beings too and just want to have an opportunity to share their gifts of teaching and learning with our children.

Finally, be honest with yourselves about past failures to recruit minority teachers and work to rectify those mistakes. Then and only then will you begin to see better results of the desire to hire minority classroom teachers.

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