Tucson School District Seeking Minority Teachers

TUCSON, Ariz.

Tucson’s largest school district has launched a $550,000 effort to recruit minority teachers, hoping to diversify its staff and give minority students a better chance of seeing themselves as part of the education system.

Experts say the feeling of belonging translates into long-term success for students, an important goal for a district whose minority students traditionally trail Anglo counterparts in academic achievement.

The numbers show a disconnect with population rates.

According to 2005 U.S. Census Bureau numbers, the most recent available, more than 40 percent of Tucson’s population was Hispanic then. That year, about 24 percent of Tucson Unified School District teachers were Hispanic. Last year, the number fell to about 21 percent.

Tucson Unified employed 1,009 high school teachers last year, and five were American Indian. There were two Asian teachers in all middle schools combined. Anglo teachers made up 74 percent of the teaching staff.

Richard Foster, who heads the district’s minority teacher recruitment effort, said he will travel to other cities and states in search of candidates.

His recruiting strategies include attending job fairs, participating in educational-diversity fairs, visiting historically black colleges and urban areas with large black populations, and reaching out to American Indian and Hispanic communities.

Foster said the district also will use the Internet as an advertising tool to gain national exposure.

“We’re not only trying to get them to come to TUSD, but trying to get them to come to Tucson,” Foster said.

The $550,000 budget for the new recruitment position covers salary and benefit expenses, supplies and travel costs, said Alyson Nielson, the district’s director of employment services. After stipends are established, the district plans to use the money to offer incentives to highly qualified and minority teachers.

“We’re trying to build that diversity,” Nielson said.

Experts tend to support the idea that schools should reflect the populations they serve.

Sylvia Olivas, an assistant clinical professor at the University of Arizona and a bilingual-education teacher in the Tucson Unified district, said children need role models.

“I never had a minority teacher until I reached high school,” Olivas said. “So I always thought it was something not for me.”

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