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Howard schools look to diversify teaching staff by inviting prospective employees ‘into our home’

Prospective Howard County teachers boarded a bus on a May morning to visit either two elementary schools or two secondary schools and get an inside look at the schools and the surrounding communities.

“We have a lot of individuals who have a misconception of who we are as a county and we wanted to break down those misconceptions … [and] invite them into our home, show them who we are and what we are made of,” said Ella Bradley, manager of human capital recruitment and talent acquisition for Howard schools.

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The school visits were part of the school system’s inaugural Teachers of Color recruitment event, part of an ongoing effort to diversify Howard’s teaching staff.

“It was very powerful on the bus to see the schools that we passed,” said Jason McCoy, an Area I performance, equity and community response director for the school system. “Very different neighborhoods, as you can be at a farm one minute and in a city atmosphere in the next. [The participants] were very interested in that.”

The school system has “been having a lot of ongoing discussions on the importance of increasing diversity in our workforce,” he said.

“We have a diverse county, and our staff doesn’t necessarily reflect in the diversity of our students.”

The majority of Howard’s 4,802 classroom teachers across all grade levels are white, according to the school system’s most recent data. The county’s teachers are 74.9% white, 16.8% black/African American, 4.1% Asian, 3% Hispanic/Latino and 1.3% identify as “other,” according to the data.

Howard’s student racial breakdown includes 35.8% who are white, 24% black/African American, 22.4% Asian, 11.3% Hispanic/Latino, while the rest of the students identify with two or more races or “other.”

Nearly 160 participants, who represented different races and cultural backgrounds, attended the recruiting event.

Bradley said teachers were the target of the event but anyone was welcome, including school administrators, paraeducators, educators who could be an administrator one day, and individuals who may not have a teaching background at this time. College students who are majoring in education also participated.

Some of the participants have been hired and the school system hopes to hire more by the end of the summer, said David Larner, Howard schools’ chief of human resources and professional development officer.

With the school system’s diversity, equity and inclusion department, Bradley said they are looking at how job interviews are conducted to see where bias comes out. Trainings focused on culturally responsive interviews are also being established.

In January, the school system was named one of America’s Best Employers for Diversity for 2019 by Forbes magazine. Of Forbes’ national list of 500 employers, Howard schools was ranked in 60th place.

In the school system’s Strategic Call to Action, one of the four pillars of its overarching commitments is “connect,” which embraces diversity.

Connect is defined as when “students and staff thrive in a safe, nurturing and inclusive culture that embraces diversity. We support students’ social-emotional development and build healthy school relationships through restorative practices. We reflect diversity and inclusion through our curriculum and staff hiring.”

The May recruitment event featured a panel where teachers of color shared their experiences and obstacles of teaching in Howard County. When visiting the schools, the participants met administrators who shared information about the specific school and then they were led on a tour by student leaders, where they visited classrooms and could ask the students questions.

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Howard schools’ human resources and professional development, school management and instructional leadership staff members were recognized for having the inaugural Teachers of Color recruitment event during a May school board meeting.

“Your efforts helped break down barriers and demonstrate why this is an amazing place to teach,” schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said during the meeting.

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