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Lack of teacher diversity in Oregon, HR director working on plan to help staff members become teachers

In Canby School District, 91 percent of teachers are white, but the students are more diverse, according to the district's latest report card from the Oregon Department of Education.

Of Canby's students, 65 percent are white, 4 percent are multiracial, 30 percent are Hispanic/Latino and 1 percent are Asian.

COURTESY PHOTO: CSD - Pictured is a comparison of the all-staff to student ratio over the last three years.

Over the last three years, Canby's percentage of new hires of color has hovered between 20 and 25 percent of all hires, according to data Human Resources Director Michelle Riddell provided at the school board's latest work session.

Board member Tom Scott asked if the percentage of those new hires of color reflected the percentage of persons of color who had applied. Riddell explained that the answer remains unclear since it's difficult to gather data from applicants who are not hired. They have the choice whether or not to provide demographic data to the district.

The district's goal, per Riddell, is to close the gap so that the teachers and staff mirror the demographics of the students.

But that's a struggle in Oregon.

"The state's identifying that we frankly just don't have enough diverse educators, both ethnically and linguistically, in Oregon," Riddell said. "They're just not in our universities."

Because of the lack of diverse teachers in the state, Riddell has been working on what she calls a "grow-your-own" plan that could help pave the way for instructional assistants and other non-certified staff to become teachers if they desire.

"Our IAs are really diverse, and often they're from your community and they're going to stay," Riddell said. "And they really want to be in the system. Often, it's identifying: what are the supports they need? So, I've begun communicating with staff and inviting them into some information nights with universities and also with our community colleges.

"It was exciting because we had quite a group last year, about 25," Riddell continued, "that came to the community college so they could hear about those opportunities as well as hear from us about what supports we could give them, what was tuition reimbursement, and what are the barriers that they see if they are interested in becoming a teacher."

COURTESY PHOTO: CSD - This graph shows the number of teachers of color at each Canby School District building.

Riddell is having conversations around this grow-your-own idea with her HR colleagues in the county as well, she said, and the concepts are gaining momentum.

With the help of state funding, the Education Service District is spearheading Regional Educator Networks, groups of educators, who have the goal of determining what is needed to support grow-your-own, recruitment and more. The ESD will then send ideas out to districts.

"I appreciate Michelle's work," Goodall said at the meeting when Riddell ended her presentation. "Overall, I would say I appreciate her work, but you know keeping our eye on trying to recruit people in our system to reflect the demographics of our district is really, really important. And it is a struggle in Oregon. We are certainly not alone as a school district. So, I think anything that we can do to be creative, it's really important for us to keep that focus."

Kristen Wohlers
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