LYNN — Nearly 85 percent of the student body at Lynn Public Schools is non-white, but the district’s teaching staff does not reflect that diversity, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
School administrators and officials want to change that, and are planning ways to bring more diversity to a workforce that is 87 percent white, according to statistics provided by Lynn Public Schools. The district priority — recruiting, supporting and retaining a diverse staff — is an initiative of the LPS five-year district strategic plan.
Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler has outlined a three-year plan to that end that includes creating a school culture that celebrates diversity to maximize on its existing staff of color, creating a pathway to the teaching profession for the district’s current students and increasing ways to go about recruiting candidates of color.
Another strategy is partnering with a college or university to create a teacher candidate pipeline to the school district, he said.
The research is clear that students of color demonstrate greater academic achievement and social and emotional development in classes with teachers of color, said Tutwiler, citing a 2018 Learning Policy Institute article.
Students of color benefit by seeing themselves in teachers of their racial background, Tutwiler said. Having teachers of color benefits white students as well, he said, by allowing them to experience a different perspective during their education.
Tutwiler said student demographics have shifted over the years, but staff demographics have largely remained the same.
The district’s white student population has decreased by 13 percent while its Hispanics have increased by 19 percent over the past decade. Staff has not kept up with that change, shifting from 90 percent white to 87 percent over that same time period.
The struggle to diversify staff is not unique to Lynn. Six of the 10 commissioner’s districts, or 10 largest urban districts in the state, have teaching forces that are at least 80 percent white.
Boston is doing better with a teaching force that is 52 percent white, according to data from DESE, but the district is under a long-standing racial quota court order.
“We don’t need a lawsuit to come up with something,” said Tutwiler. “Whatever it is, it has to be realistic.”
The plan outlined by the district not only focuses on ways to hire teachers of color, but to retain the ones it has. Tutwiler said the district applied for a diverse hiring grant from DESE that closed last week, which would help with those efforts.
A big part of the process will be providing new training for administrators and teachers in all schools to create and sustain a culture that celebrates racial and linguistic diversity.
“Making clear that equity work is the responsibility of all staff is an important piece,” Tutwiler said. “Research clearly indicates that some of the retention issues related to staff of color involves feeling as though they are often held exclusively responsible for matters involving students of color.”
School Committee member Brian Castellanos said a key part of the recruitment will be for the district to get kids excited about becoming teachers. He suggested the development of a public educator campaign that would promote the positive elements of the potential career for students.
“Ask kids: what’s your dream,” Castellanos said. “Being an educator — those folks were the ones who allowed me to achieve my dream of (becoming) an educated person a reality.”