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ETHS lays out plans for improving staff diversity

ETHS Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Scott Bramley, left, and Associate Director of Human Resources Angela Gardner speak at Monday’s board meeting about how to better recruit and retain educators of color. Credit: ETHS District 202 YouTube

At Monday night’s school board meeting, Evanston Township High School’s human resources team presented data on staff racial identities and announced new plans to better recruit teachers of color in the coming years. The presentation represented the first time the school has invested in a formal report of this scale on staff racial demographics.

Depending on the study, most research estimates that between 15% and 20% of all teachers in the nation are people of color, according to Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Scott Bramley. At ETHS, 65% of the school’s 336 licensed staff members are white, while 17% are Black, 9% are Hispanic or Latino, 8% are Asian and 1% identify as two or more races, Associate Director for Human Resources Angela Gardner said at the meeting.

But the student population at the high school is just 46% white, and Black and Latino educators are underrepresented, the data revealed. The report for board members also comes following a school year during which dozens of ETHS teachers and department chairs spoke at board meetings in favor of a concrete plan for recruiting and retaining a more diverse staff.

“In my years, we’ve never seen this, so now, we have something to start from and improve upon, because it’s not happy news,” board vice president Monique Parsons told Bramley and Gardner. “But I’m excited about what you’re doing.”

Looking at year-over-year data on the racial identities of new teacher hires made by the district, a clear change occurred between the 2021-22 year and the current 2022-23 academic year. Last year, 58% of new hires were white, 16% were Black and 5% were Hispanic or Latino. This year, on the other hand, 39% of new hires were white, 22% were Black and 22% were Hispanic or Latino.

But the HR department is focused on developing long-term programs to ensure the trend toward a more diverse workforce continues beyond just the current year, according to Bramley. For example, he and his team are in talks with two Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Chicago State in Illinois and Central State in Ohio – as well as Northwestern University here in Evanston to build teacher residency programs that actively identify and recruit future ETHS educators of colour.

One major challenge is that the landscape of job hunting has changed drastically in recent years, Bramley said. Instead of “just posting a job online and having a bunch of people apply for it,” people are finding positions through other means, like pipeline programs, networking connections, job fairs or incentives like bonuses and benefits, he said. As a result, ETHS needs to diversify its traditional recruitment methods.

Plus, the new collective bargaining agreement between the local teachers’ union and the ETHS District 202 launched a new racial equity committee.

“What we want to do is center the voices of educators of color to inform, create, collaborate and review equity policies and programs for students and educators at ETHS,” Gardner said.

Later in the meeting, a panel of community leaders and ETHS staff members also spoke about workforce development efforts and postsecondary planning for students, particularly those who do not choose to attend college. Neil Gambow, who chairs the Mayor’s Employer Advisory Council, suggested working with young students of color to make them more aware of ETHS as a major employer in Evanston, rather than as just a high school.

Similarly, Bramley also emphasized the importance of making ETHS an inclusive space so that people of underrepresented racial identities and backgrounds feel safer working there. He referenced the work of Daman Harris, the founder of a Maryland-based initiative on diversity in education, who said that “if school was a better experience for children of color, maybe more of them would become teachers.”

“If we don’t have a community and an environment that is responsive and inclusive and affirms identity, then we will lose the people we recruit,” Bramley said. “So it’s important that it’s a collective effort.”

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