Jefferson County Public School officials are working on plans to recruit and retain more minority employees at all levels, with the ultimate goal for the JCPS workforce to better reflect the diversity of its student body.

The Board held a work session Tuesday night to talk about the district’s efforts to recruit and retain more minority employees as teachers, vendors, skilled trades workers and administrators.

Teachers

Currently, the JCPS student body is made up of about 56 percent students of color, while about 16 percent of teachers are people of color. The district has made an effort to hire more minority teachers and principals in recent years, so that about 22 percent of newly hired teachers are people of color.

“In the nine years that I have been on the board, I continue to hear from families whose children never see a minority teacher, and in some cases nor a minority administrator,” said Board chair Diane Porter.

“And I think Dr. Pollio has been very aggressive with changing that, but clearly, clearly, we must do better.”

Earlier this month, JCPS announced a new partnership with Simmons College to attract minority teachers through a Transition to Teaching program offered at Louisville’s historically black college.

Tuesday, the Board discussed plans for a year-long teacher residency program that would help recruit more minority teachers through a district-led alternative certification program. The program would pair those residents with experienced teacher mentors, to give the beginning teachers more support and hopefully improve minority teacher retention. The program would be selective, and would place residents in high-need schools.

A JCPS spokeswoman said the district hopes to start the residency program some time during the 2019-2020 school year, and while it would not be exclusively for minority candidates, one goal of the program would be to diversify the teacher workforce.

Vendors and Contractors

JCPS has a goal to increase its spending at minority-owned and women-owned businesses from a current rate of 3 percent of all district spending to 10 percent going to women-owned shops and 15 percent to minority-owned businesses.

With plans to spend more than $170 million to renovate and construct new buildings under the facility plan the Board passed earlier this year, JCPS will have ample opportunity to seek out minority-owned contractors. Among its strategies to increase outreach to minority-owned vendors, the district will require at least three quotes on purchases of less than $20,000 with an effort for at least one to be from a minority-owned business.

Skilled Tradespeople

JCPS Chief Operations Officer Michael Raisor presented a proposal to create an apprentice-style program to recruit minority trade workers for entry-level positions. The TRADES program would train those workers in more advanced skills with the goal of retaining and promoting them within the school district. Raisor said the district struggles to hire minority tradespeople in mid-level and advanced positions because not enough candidates apply, and because the school district has difficulty competing with the private sector.

“This give us the opportunity to grow the candidates,” Raisor said.

Raisor said he thinks the program could serve as a national model for other school districts, and would mirror programs offered by employers in the private sector.  Board chair Diane Porter noted the program could seek to draw new employees from among the recent high school graduates of the district’s vocational academies.

Administrators

So far, JCPS has made the greatest progress in hiring minority principals and administrators. Fifty-six percent of recently hired principals and 37 percent of newly hired administrators are people of color.

“What we’ve had to do is make conscious efforts to develop our minority leaders,” said Superintendent Marty Pollio.

Pollio added that he will have more control over principal hires, after a law passed this spring gives him the final say in principal selection. Pollio said in all cases he will seek to choose the best leader for each school.

Before a list of candidates ever hits Pollio’s desk, under a new policy discussed Tuesday night, applications would go through a two-tiered process designed to ensure a diversity of candidates are considered. A slating committee would first select unidentified applications based on the candidates’ qualifications, then review the race and gender of that slate of applicants and reconsider the selections before revealing the candidates’ names. That final set of vetted candidates would then go before a site-based decision making council composed of teachers and parents who then recommend a principal to the superintendent, who may approve or reject the candidate.