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Teacher Assisting a Student

The Lorain school district is looking to change its hiring practices for the upcoming school year to get a more diverse staff.

“Last year, only 4 percent of people who were licensed in the state were members of a minority, and we want to get people from that batch,” Superintendent Jeff Graham said. “We want people from diverse backgrounds that are talented and can serve the various cultures we have here.”

With more than 30 percent of the district’s students coming from primarily Spanish-speaking homes, Graham, who is white, noted getting more Spanish-speaking staff is a priority, along with African-American men.

“Try as I might, I can’t represent women, African-Americans or Hispanics and speak for them, and there’s a need for initiatives that will make changes to our make up,” he said.

Carol Gottschling, the district’s director of human resources, said her department has put together a plan to address the ethnic discrepancies in the district’s staff.

According to figures from her department, female staff members outnumber males 597 to 255, and white staff members outnumber African-Americans, Hispanics and other ethnicities 608 to 244.

“It’s all based in a minority recruitment plan that’s started with a committee of teachers, support staff and administrators — what’s going to help to identify some of our obstacles in hiring minorities and what the solutions can be,” Gottschling said. “For starters, we want to start working more closely with CAMERA, or the Cleveland Area Minority Educators Recruitment Association.”

CAMERA is made of 20 area school districts with Lorain the only member district from Lorain County.

Gottschling said the district plans to work with the city to increase the marketability of the area and speaking with the teachers union to increase incentives for teachers who sign and stay in Lorain.

The district staff also plans on attending more job fairs at diverse colleges with the aim to “search, identify and recruit” and are willing to go as far as Texas and Puerto Rico to accurately represent the district’s student body.

Graham said part of the recruitment process is also based on the district’s “welcome home” strategy it’s been implementing over the last year.

“We want to go after rising students in the high school that are interested in becoming educators to help grow our own, get them off to a good school and then have them come home, which has been a big theme for us this year,” he said.

Graham also noted, despite a looming state takeover where an Academic Distress Commission-appointed CEO could remove him, the district will continue to work toward hiring good teachers.

“Our goal is to ensure our schools are a true reflection of the diversity of the students we serve,” he said. “We know we have a lot of work to do, and we are being thoughtful and aggressive in our approach to attract additional talent that our students deserve.”

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