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Number of teachers of color hired by Harford schools continues to increase

A sign in a classroom at Forest Hill Elementary School in 2015.
A sign in a classroom at Forest Hill Elementary School in 2015.(Matt Button / Aegis Staff / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Of the 209 new teachers hired for the 2017-2018 school year, 33 of them identified themselves as teachers of color, a number that’s been increasing the last three years as Harford schools focus on increasing their diversity.

“I’m encouraged by the fact that our numbers of teachers of color hired, although the numbers are small, they do reflect growth, and they do reflect growth from looking at the ranks of those existing [teachers],” Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Jean A. Mantegna told members of the Harford County Board of Education at their meeting Monday night in Bel Air.

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One of the main focuses of her office when it comes to recruiting staff and teachers is to continue to improve diversity within the organization as well as maintain a culturally proficient staff, she said.

The 33 teachers of color hired for the 2017-2018 school year is 15.8 percent of all the teachers hired, Mantegna said. That’s up from 13.4 percent in the 2016-2017 school year and 9.1 percent in the 2015-2016 school year.

At the same time the number of new teachers of color is increasing, so is the percentage of teachers of color across the entire school system, she said.

The Harford County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to increase its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020 by $5 million and submit a request to the county executive for $472,678,414.

In the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years, teachers of color made up 5.8 percent of the entire teaching body. In the 2017-2018 school year, 6.7 percent of all teachers identified as being of color, Mantegna said.

The school system is increasing its recruiting efforts, including at historically African-American colleges and universities like Morgan State University and Delaware State College, said Barbara Valentine, assistant manager of staffing for the school system.

In addition to the 209 teachers hired for the 2017-2018 school year, 159 others staff members were hired, according to Mantegna.

“We are committed to filing position in a highly timely manner with the highest quality of staff we can find and retaining them throughout the year,” she said.

Among the teachers hired were those right out of college to one with 22 years of service who was “attracted to the organization.”

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Thirty-nine of those 209 teachers were former student-teacher interns for Harford County Public Schools, 44 were former Harford County Public Schools students and 15 were former Harford staff who left, went somewhere else and “found their way home to us,” Mantegna said.

Human resources staff attended 48 recruiting events in 2017-2018, up by 10 from the previous school year. This year, Mantegna said, they plan to attend 50 events. Most of them are in the mid-Atlantic region, and last year 53 percent of the teachers hired came from Maryland colleges.

“We want to continue to strengthen our relationships with college student interns to come into schools and to continue to develop a partnership that will enable us to attract a diverse workforce,” Mantegna said.

Harford schools continue to have strong retention rate, Senior Manager of Human Resources Benjamin Richardson told the board.

In the last three school years, Harford retained 90.3 percent of its teachers in 2015-2016, 91.8 percent in 2016-2017 and 92 percent last year, Richardson said.

A retention focus group comprised of 31 teachers looked at why teachers stay and came up with several themes, including their love for students, school-based leadership, school culture and curriculum, a level of trust, the opportunity to collaborate, mentoring opportunities, and compensation and benefits.

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As a parent to two Harford County Public Schools students, and as a former teacher and a former building administrator, “retaining high quality teachers for my kids and all Harford County Public Schools kids is a top priority,” Richardson said.

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