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Local school districts still struggling to hire minorities

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Both the Longview and Kelso school districts are struggling to hire minorities at satisfactory levels, according to annual reviews by both districts. But the results are no worse than numbers from districts across the state.

In Longview, the district is still under target by 20 minority teachers across five job categories, while women are represented equitably across all categories.

In Kelso, the district’s human resources department made essentially the same findings: the number of female employees was equitable, while minorities were underrepresented.

Currently, five of Kelso’s 321 teachers are considered minorities, while 13 of the district’s 323 classified staff (such as bus drivers and food personnel) are minorities. According to state guidelines, that number should be closer to 26 minority teachers (about 8 percent of staff) and nearly 48 (almost 15 percent of staff) minority classified employees.

The “ideal” number of minorities and women in a given school district is determined by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and its Office of Equity in Education. Each school district is required under state law to have an affirmative action plan or policy.

The analysis essentially measures the district’s current number of employed women and minorities against the number of qualified minority employees in the workforce in the state. If the currently employed level is less than 80 percent of qualified employees available, then the group is considered “underutilized.”

Both Longview and Kelso reports acknowledge what is known to be a statewide problem: it’s difficult to recruit teachers in general. And recruiting minorities within Washington state is even harder.

“It parallels what we’ve seen in past years,” said Longview Human Resources director Ron Kramer. “The challenge is we don’t have a lot of applicants from the minority side. That’s the part we struggle with the most.”

Kelso’s affirmative action report acknowledges the same: “The percent of minorities in teacher and educational staff associate training programs has not kept up with demand,” the report says. “Certificated training programs with higher concentrations of minority students are outside Washington state.”

According to a 2015 study from the Center for Educational Research at the University of Washington, every state in the country has a lower percentage of minority teachers than minority students.

Titled “Educator and Student Diversity in Washington State: Gaps and Historical Trends,” the report found that Washington schools have more than three times as many minority students (39.3 percent) as nonwhite teachers (13 percent).

And the number of unrepresented minority students has grown much faster across the state than the number of minority teachers. Since 1988, the percent of minority students increased by 16 percentage points, while nonwhite teachers only increased by 2 percent.

“Clearly, the modest increases in the diversity of the teaching workforce in Washington state are not keeping up with the corresponding increases in the diversity of the state’s students,” the report states.

Meanwhile, the districts are still trying to expand their recruiting outside of the state.

According to Kelso’s report, presented to the school board on Monday, the district’s human resources department plans within the next five years to attract minorities “by advertising in appropriate media outlets (including minority-focused media), notifying local colleges and universities of internship opportunities, and ensuring equal opportunity in the hiring process.”

Districts actively recruit during spring and early summer, Kramer said, and while he’s interviewed and gone to job fairs in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, he is also trying to reach out to candidates by phone.

“I’ve had quite a few (interviews) by phone, so we don’t have to incur the expense of travel,” Kramer said. “We’ve interviewed candidates from North Dakota, Arizona and Texas. If they pick up on where we’re advertising our openings and apply, we’ll give them consideration.”

Contact Daily News reporter Madelyn Reese at 360-577-2523


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