Chesterfield schools to launch teacher diversity initiative

Chesterfield County

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) is acting on its commitment to foster a diverse learning environment by launching an initiative aimed at increasing the number of minority teachers.

The initiative is called Mirror Me, a program officials say will change the perceptions of hiring practices within CCPS and promote the importance of the teaching profession from within.

“We are looking at having Mirror Me as an initiative, as a foundational block that we can continue to build upon,” Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator Dr. Maia K. Johnson said to the School Board at its Tuesday meeting. “Chesterfield County, our community, our division is very diverse. But as our schools and community have become increasingly diverse, the teacher workforce within our division has not kept pace.”

While 46% of the student population at CCPS is white, 81% of the staff is white, according to data from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). The data also shows that 26.3% of CCPS students are Black, but only 11.3% of staff is Black.

“Demographically, we are a majority minority division,” Johnson said.

But CCPS is not alone in this. Children of color in U.S. schools represent 47% of the student body, according to the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) 2015 data. Meanwhile, this same data shows that teachers of color in U.S. schools represent 17% of educators.

“There is a chronic underrepresentation of teachers of color in the United States,” Johnson said.

Such underrepresentation makes a significant impact on students. According to Johns Hopkins University, Black students who are exposed to one Black teacher by third grade are 13% more likely to enroll in college.

For teachers, the National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports that diversity can mitigate feelings of isolation, frustration and fatigue that may contribute to individual teachers of color leaving the profession.

“We want to help cultivate a culture where our division exudes that we value diversity within our teaching workforce,” Johnson said. “We are committed to finding innovative solutions at the local level to recruit and sustain a diverse, dynamic teaching staff.”

So what is CCPS doing to diversify its staff and help its students?

The Mirror Me diversity inclusion initiative strives to create a pipeline for CCPS students, as well as students at local higher education institutions. Though Johnson said that nothing is finalized at this time, CCPS officials are strategizing with Virginia State University (VSU) and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to provide opportunities.

“We want there to be a homegrown component,” Johnson said. “How do we reach the students that are here as part of Chesterfield County Public Schools to promote the teaching profession, but not only promote it — to guide them through a path and support them through a path so that they are able to come back and teach within Chesterfield County?”

CCPS officials said that Mirror Me would look to engage high school juniors and seniors through mentorship, allowing them to see themselves as the person delivering instruction.

CCPS Superintendent Dr. Mervin Daugherty said there will be another presentation on Mirror Me in June, at which point officials hope to have finalized the details of the school system’s partnership in this program with higher education institutions.

“We want to start, one, getting our students when they come back to school as juniors and seniors involved in the teacher program, but also, we want to start, in August, talking to the university juniors because they can be part of the program,” Daugherty said. “They can work our summer schools. They can be substitute teachers. There’s a lot that we can do with them.”

Daugherty said that the plan is for the Mirror Me initiative to be presented to the CCPS School Board for approval in June.

Board members expressed their support for the program at the Tuesday meeting.

“Having a broader perspective is critical to success,” Midlothian District representative Kathryn Haines said.

Both Dale District representative Debbie Bailey and Clover Hill District representative Dot Heffron are former CCPS students.

“I think it’s a wonderful program, I think it’s a wonderful initiative,” Heffron said. “What are we doing to recruit and retain highly qualified Black educators? To make that sustainability piece, I would really like to just keep that question present while we’re working through this initiative.”

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