Minority teachers hard to find, schools say

Have small employee pool to choose from

Michelle Stuckey
August 19, 2011 at 9:27 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Finding minority educators for St. Charles Parish has been a challenge to the school district, even though the parish has a higher percentage of minorities than the national average.

School officials maintain that they are pulling out all the stops to lure in minority professionals, but that small pools of candidates make for limited options.

About 15 percent of St. Charles public school professionals are minorities, while 43 percent of the students are minorities. Nationally, only 7.9 percent of teachers are African American. According to the National Education Association, most schools in the country have faculties that are overwhelmingly white despite efforts by districts like St. Charles to hire minority teachers.

For the 2011-2012 school year, 19 minority professionals were hired, or 26 percent of certified hires.

The major obstacle in the quest to hire more minority educators is the small pool that the schools have to choose from, Paul Gibson, the executive director of Human Resources, said.

For example, during a recent recruitment at Grambling State University, a historically black university, there were only 12 students in the education program who were eligible.
“When you had anywhere from 40 to 45 recruiters out and you have a pool that small, it’s very competitive,” Gibson said.

Another concern is the downsizing of student teacher programs at state universities. When college students come to St. Charles Parish to practice in the classroom, it is good for the student and the district.

“That way we can kind of get a look at them ahead of time and see what they’re about, see if we want them to continue working in our district,” Gibson said.

Each year, about five to 15 college students teach in parish schools, but that number can vary greatly because colleges try to match students with their hometown school systems.

Having a student work in St. Charles Parish before graduation and then inviting them back for a job is the ideal situation for the employee and the district, Gibson said. But universities have to pay gas mileage for supervising professors to travel to the parish and monitor students for the program. For some schools, like Southeastern Louisiana University, that is holding some students back from St. Charles.

“Southeastern does not want to pay their supervising teachers mileage, so by cutting back they’re only putting student-teachers in schools on the East Bank side of the river (in St. Charles),” Gibson said.

During the last recruitment season, school officials participated in 18 university and college job fairs and one national conference. Representatives even traveled as far as Michigan to try to find more quality educators to add to St. Charles staff.

“There have been a lot of lay-offs in the Chicago and Michigan areas, so that’s why we went that way,” Gibson said. “There were so many recruiters from all over the nation there, if you get one or two (candidates) I think it’s successful.”

After attending the job fairs, the district invited more than 250 certified applicants to parish-level interviews, and of those about 150 attended. When parish-level hiring interviews were conducted, 26 applicants were minorities. Of those, half were hired.

Those who were hired had just recently graduated primarily from Southeastern, Nicholls State University and Louisiana State University. The majority of total hires were from those three schools plus the University of New Orleans.

Gibson said another factor to consider is that St. Charles schools are hiring more minority professionals than they are losing to retirement or other factors.

View other articles written Michelle Stuckey

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