The school district’s commitment to increasing diversity in its hiring is paying off.
At last week’s School Committee meeting, human resources director Christine Lee and district equity officer Dr. Aaron Jennings gave an update on how the schools have worked to increase and retain a more diverse workforce.
During the past hiring season for the current school year, Lee said the about 35 percent of the 171 teachers hired were classified as diverse teachers of color, up from a total of about 15 percent diversity of new hires two years ago.
“There are tremendous increases we are seeing with the work we are doing, and we are very excited about it,” said Lee.
The diversity numbers are also up on the administration side, Lee said.
Overall, the statistics for the 2020-21 school year showed a 66 percent increase in teacher diversity, a 66 percent increase in administrator diversity, and a 14 percent increase in central office diversity.
Jennings noted that the increase in diversity is in line with the district’s priority to recruit, support, and retain diverse and high quality teachers and leaders.
“I am just doubly excited to know we are in line and in sync as we move our district forward,” said Jennings.
Both Jennings and Lee said that the push to increase diversity is about more than statistics, it’s about creating more inclusive schools for students.
During their presentation, Lee and Jennings played videos from two Chelsea high school students who talked about what having a diverse teaching force means to them.
“Having teachers of color in the community means the world to me,” said CHS 12th grader Nasir Adams. “It means a lot of teachers are more understanding and more comfortable being themselves, and the teachers understand the struggles a lot of students are going through.”
Javin Diaz, a 10th grader at the high school said teachers of color can help to empower students of color.
“They teach us how to look out for ourselves because they know what type of situation we are in, especially as people of color,” said Diaz.
Lee said there are a number of programs that have been put in place over the past several years to help recruit and retain a more diverse workforce. The Teacher Pathway Program has several avenues that encourage and help people of color and Chelsea residents to become teachers, including providing opportunities for paraprofessionals in the system to make the jump to teaching, as well as providing opportunities for parents in the district to become paraprofessionals.
The schools have also implemented a student to teacher pathway to help encourage and assist current high school students to go to college to become teachers.
“Our theory of action was if we invest in people in our community, who know our students, who look like our students and have walked the walk, then we will be able to not only diversify our workforce, but also have educators who are committed to Chelsea because they are already from here and have ties to the community,” said Lee.
When it comes to retaining the new students, Lee said a mentoring program is a big part of the strategy.
“This year, we did some work to revamp the mentoring program and there has been a focus on building relationships,” said Lee. “We know when you are supported and you know that someone cares about you who is a colleague and is there to help you, you are more likely to feel connected and feel supported and want to grow and develop in the community.”