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Lee School District continues minority hiring efforts

By Staff | Apr 19, 2011

The Lee County School District continues to move forward with its initiative to recruit and retain minority teachers to decrease the gap between the students and teachers.
Dr. Greg Adkins, chief human resource officer, said there is a considerable difference between the number of minority educators and the number of students in the district, which he said can be attributed to the lag time that appears in the workforce and the changing demographics of students.
He said 51.13 percent of the total student population enrolled in the district is made up of minority students, which breaks down to 29.8 percent who are Hispanic and 15.3 percent who are African American. The students of Hispanic heritage represent 70.9 percent of the total growth of students in the district.
Last year students classified as English Language Learners represented a total of 8.2 percent of the district’s enrollment. The district has lost 424 students classified as “non-minority.”
Out of the Lee County School Districts 4,992 teachers, 624 or 12.5 percent are teachers who fall into a “minority” classification.
Other Florida districts have higher percentage ratios between their minority teachers and students. Some of those include: Dade County has 21,139 teachers, 15,265 or 72.21 percent are minority teachers; Broward County has 14,820 teachers, 5,858 or 39.53 percent are minority teachers; Orange County has 10,527 teachers, 3,234 or 30.72 percent are minority teachers and Duval County has 7,842 teachers, 2,346 or 29.92 percent are minority teachers.
“We want to cast a wider net in our recruitment efforts,” Adkins said, by providing a good compensation and benefits package for the teachers. “We want to make ourselves more appealing and retain these applicants.”
He said the district has spent a lot of money recruiting and training minority teachers before they lose them to another district.
“We lose almost 50 percent of our teachers in the first three years,” Adkins said about the significant turnover costs of $20,000.
A task force was initiated to address the loss of minority teachers, along with recruiting more for the district. The district has partnered with the Hispanic Teacher Network, along with building teacher mentors to work with prospective minority teachers and administrators and establishing support groups for potential teachers to the district.
Obed Morales, the assistant principal at East Lee County High School, told the board members that the Hispanic Teachers’ Network was created by Evelyn Rivera in 1997, who works in curriculum and staff development for the school district.
“Her heart is in the right place,” he said.
The network, which began with 12 members, has now grown to 311 members who receive an invitation to attend the meetings.
The objective of the network is to increase knowledge and general awareness of the best practices in teaching, provide an organizational vehicle for mentors, along with fostering the ability, skills and knowledge needed for today’s diverse classrooms.
Dwayne Courtney, Lehigh Elementary School principal, shared information about recruiting and retaining minority staff through partnering with colleges and universities. He said if the candidates do not feel a connectivity to the community they will leave.
Courtney said Florida Gulf Coast University currently has 24 candidates who will be graduating and ready to be hired in the next six months. Edison State College, another interested partner, will also have 24 minority candidates graduating.
He said that is 48 candidates that the district can look at and focus their attention and efforts on.
Another aspect of the initiative is a mentoring program that is a collaborative effort of 42 members. Adkins said the district is going to pair the candidate up with a mentor, so they will have one-on-one time to receive the extra assistance they need.
Board Chairman Thomas Scott said the district should also look at their own students to seek out potential minority teachers. He said they should offer some encouragement to help the students with the work they are doing in school, along with showing them how to become part of the district in the future. He said if they find those children who are interested in the profession early on, it will benefit the district in the long run.
Adkins said the district currently has a teacher academy in their comprehensive high schools that offers a contingency contract if they are a top graduate of their class.
Board Member Jeanne Dozier said recruiting and retaining minority teachers for the district is such a valuable piece because it is important to have teacher minority representation to reflect the students faces in the district.