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Gainesville school district seeks to attract minority teachers
School leaders want faculty to better reflect makeup of student population
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Gainesville schools demographics

• Hispanic: 59.4% student enrollment, 3% certified teachers

• African-American: 19% student enrollment; 9% certified teachers

• Caucasian: 14.9% student enrollment; 78% certified teachers

With Hispanics and African-Americans accounting for nearly 80 percent of student enrollment in Gainesville City Schools but only 12 percent of certified teachers, district leaders are looking for news ways to recruit minority teachers.

“I do think it’s important that children as they’re going through school that they have role models who are teachers,” said Priscilla Collins, chief professional services officer for Gainesville City Schools. “Teaching as a profession is a worthwhile profession and we do need different races going into teaching.”

On Wednesday, the Gainesville school board approved a list of future budget considerations for new Superintendent Jeremy Williams and his staff to research and bring information back to the board. At the top of the list was “Immediately draft strategies to implement hiring priorities for qualified Latino applicants.”

“I think we need to go that way because of our community demographic,” Board Chairman Brett Mercer said at the meeting. “I’m not sure how to go about that.”

Enrollment numbers provided by the district for the 2016-17 school year showed a disparity in the demographics of students and teachers. Hispanics made up 59.4 percent of students in the district, but only 3 percent of certified teachers. African-American students were about 19 percent of student enrollment, but only 9 percent of teachers in the district. By comparison, whites accounted for just under 15 percent of students, but 78 percent of teachers.

Board member Sammy Smith suggested attending more job fairs in states like Florida and Texas where the pool of Hispanic applicants might be higher. He said the suggestion came from a member of the AdvancED team that recently evaluated the district for accreditation.

Collins said Thursday she and other district officials are looking for ways to attract more Hispanic and African-American teachers through job fairs and other efforts, but have not been as successful as they would like. She said she is looking at ways to encourage current students in the district to consider becoming teachers and returning to their home district.

“We want to look at growing our own and encouraging those who come through Gainesville City Schools, specifically our Latino and African-American students, to choose education as a career,” she said. “We do want to target the job fairs and target those other states. I think growing our own is going to be key as well.”

Collins said beginning the process of “growing our own” would likely include talking to students in education pathway at Gainesville High School and using partnerships with local colleges and universities to talk to students who have not declared a major about a career in education. She said she has developed relationships with those institutions and talked to some education classes, but has not moved toward talking specifically to students who have not declared a major.

Collins added that efforts may also include “encouraging students to take advantage of dual enrollment where they really could leave high school with two years of college already under their belt and then having to pay just for two more.”

“We probably want to get to the point where we do look to see if we can we hire them as paraprofessionals and pay for them to go through school those last two years, as well as recruiting outside of our state,” Collins said. “I think it’s critical to even talk with our high schoolers who are good in math and science and encourage them to go into the teaching pathway and become math and science teachers.”

Williams, who took over as superintendent July 1, said he wants to evaluate what the district is already doing and learn from districts who have been successful at “recruiting and retaining” minority teachers.

“Once we evaluate them, we need to figure how successful they’re being, but also begin to expand, whether it’s a geographical area from places we go to recruit or we start to develop our own from within our high schools and giving them the opportunity to see the professional side of education, not just the side of being a student,” he said.

“I would want to learn from those who’ve had success doing it,” Williams added. “Unfortunately, that does not mean that we’re probably staying in Georgia, whether that means going to Florida or talking and visiting with people out in Texas and California. For us, it would be more about broadening our exposure to finding places that are being successful with it.”

The superintendent said efforts to recruit more Hispanic and African-American teachers will take time, especially considering the 2017-18 school year starts Aug. 2.

“While it may be a priority, it’s not something that would start to show itself until the next school year or even years beyond that,” Williams said.

Other items on the list for future budget considerations included:

A study or action plan addressing inequities in sponsorship supplements;

A comprehensive study on the possibility of offering advanced music instruction for elementary students;

A feasibility study of a permanent site for school district historical displays and space for an alumni office;

Update of the school system’s nonresident tuition in relation to changes in nearby school districts;

Focus on tri-campus visioning project and study of property and inventory of all campuses.