School Leaders Debate Need for Minority Teacher Recruiter

Loudoun public school leaders want more of the county’s teachers to look like the students they teach.

Twelve percent of the school system’s teachers and administrators are racial minorities, a far cry from the 48 percent of minorities who make up the student body.

“We want to develop a diverse workforce to serve our diverse community,” Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services Kimberly L. Hough said.

She reported data on the school system employees’ racial makeup to the Loudoun County School Board on Thursday. The report is in response to an inquiry from the Loudoun County chapter of NAACP, which raised concerns last fall about the lack of diversity among school division employees.

Hough’s department is requesting that the board include $162,350 in next fiscal year’s budget to help turn the figures around.

The money would cover the costs of a personnel specialist who would target diversity recruitment, as well as $40,000 worth of consulting services. The consultants would develop a plan to create a more diverse workforce, share best practices used by diverse organizations and provide training for hiring managers and interview committees on unconscious biases, Hough said.

Hough’s report also showed that minorities apply for licensed positions with Loudoun County Public Schools at a higher rate than they’re being hired. From October 2014 through September 2015, 19.5 percent of the applicants for licensed positions were racial minorities. Of the employees hired during that time, 8.32 percent were minorities.

Several board members said they were concerned to see such a gap between the student population and employees’ racial makeup.

School Board Vice Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) thanked Hough for her department’s transparency in bringing the issue forward and she pointed out that the schools in her district have an even wider disparity than most. About 75 percent of Sterling students are racial minorities.

“When the teaching staff does not reflect the student body that maybe explains why we don’t have more diverse students going into the teaching field,” Sheridan said.

“The preliminary data is definitely concerning,” Joy Maloney (Broad Run) said in an interview today. “I think the effort is very genuine from staff to look at potential solutions to it and to work with the community.”

Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) sounded hesitant to earmark money for the new position and consulting services, during what’s expected to be a tight fiscal year. She noted that the priority must be student achievement, and asked for evidence that shows students perform better if their teachers look like them.

“Because it wouldn’t reflect that among our Asian population, which does very well and has the largest discrepancy,” she said, pointing out that 3 percent of the teachers are Asian and 19 percent of students are Asian.

In response, Superintendent Eric Williams said he will provide a written rationale for how it would be a “student-focused initiative.”

Whether funding to target diversity recruitment will be included in the fiscal year 2017 budget will be decided Tuesday, when the School Board is scheduled to adopt its spending plan.

View the full report here.