RICHMOND — A top equity priority for Charlottesville City Schools is to hire and support teachers of color, and for the next school year, 50% of the teachers hired identify as a minority, according to a presentation at Friday’s School Board retreat in Richmond.
The division still has several vacancies, so that percentage could decrease by the start of the school year. So far, 30 teachers have been hired, and 15 are teachers of color. The division hired 40% of its minority applicants, per the presentation.
Gary Blair, the division’s director of human resources, said the division has implemented several recruiting tactics and tweaked the interview process.
“We don’t send old people like me out to recruit,” he said. “ … We ask pointed questions. We do a lot of listening.”
This year, applicants have been interested in the division’s work to improve equity, which has helped with hiring, said Beth Cheuk, coordinator of community affairs and development for Charlottesville, and Blair.
Friday’s retreat began with a discussion about hiring for the next school year and top equity issues. Since last fall, Charlottesville has gathered feedback on equity issues in the school system. The effort was prompted, in part, by a critical New York Times-ProPublica article that examined achievement gaps in the division.
An equity committee has been convened to review that feedback and make recommendations to shape the division’s efforts to improve equity.
Cheuk outlined a tentative framework that includes equipping teachers to meet the needs of all students; diversifying classrooms and learning experiences; growing relationships, community and communication, and putting in place an equity foundation.
Equipping teachers to meet the needs of all students would include three professional learning emphases: differentiation, school culture and cultural competence and responsiveness.
School Board members asked about support for new teachers of color and retention.
“Charlottesville is not a warm and fuzzy place,” board member Leah Puryear said, asking about how the division can nurture new staff members and acclimate them to the community.
Denise Johnson, the division’s new supervisor of equity, said she was working to help new teachers make professional connections such as with the Black Professional Network and provide teachers with more holistic support.
“It’s abundantly clear that we need to give more support,” she said.
Associate Superintendent Jim Henderson said the division is planning to start a mentorship program for new teachers with zero to one year of experience that would pair them with a veteran teacher to support the novice educators.
Schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins said the school system also could work with community organizations to help support teachers.
“We don’t have to act alone,” Atkins said.
Atkins has said that one challenge to diversifying the division’s teaching force is the size of the candidate pool. In November, division staff has contacted teacher preparation programs at historically black colleges and universities in Virginia. This school year, five programs said they will have 75 graduates.
However, seven Virginia colleges are adding a combined 25 teacher preparation degree programs next year, which is expected to increase the annual production of new teachers by more than 400 in 2024, according to the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia.
“[The applicant pool] will be improving,” Atkins said.
So far, teachers of color make up 11% of the total applicant pool, according to the presentation.