Teacher Survey Results Aim to Attract More Minority Teachers in Dist. 205

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The Rockford Public School district is trying to bring more diversity to its teaching staff to better reflect the student population. The Community Input Committee recently got results from a teacher survey that's trying to get at the root of the issue.

"I understand people's resistance to talking about race, but they're just going to have to get over that," said Dr. Matthew Johnson-Doyle. co-chair of the Community Input Committee.

'This is reverse racism,' 'Why are you asking me this,' those are some of the comments District's 205's Community Input Committee received on a survey it sent out to teachers. Some of the questions focus on race.

"What can we do to improve the environment for teachers of color in particular and recruit more to work in the district," said Johnson-Doyle.

School leaders are trying to figure out why just five percent of their teachers are black but 30 percent of students are.

Johnson-Doyle said, "There are things we should be able to do to insure that our teachers look more like our students so students have the kind of mentors and guides that understand them and connect with them."

The results found that minority teachers have a different experience.

"(They're) not taken seriously in terms of their perspective when it comes to their administrators," said Lloyd Johnston, a member of the Community Input Committee.

So the committee made nine recommendations to help address the teacher environment. They are:

1.) Review and strengthen the "grow your own" program. Create Future Educators chapters and promote teaching through the new HS Academy program.

2.) Create a scholarship and outreach program at Rockford College for students of color in teacher education.

3.) Hiring more teachers of color may improve the overall experience of teachers of color. We should seek to have at least two teachers of color in every building. (This recommendation was changed to instead support a district-wide outreach for minority teachers. Some committee members said having two black teachers in a building would not make much of a difference.)

4.) Education clearly needs to happen about "the myth of colorblindness" and simply acknowledging the reality of race as part of people's identity and experience. Formal equality does not require the erasure of identity.

5.) Since it was identified as the most adverse experience, focused anti-racism work with administration seems called for. This has a few advantages - including that it is easy (contractually) to require administrators to do something; it would show buy-in by leadership to do this work and it would hopefully effect policies and programs launched by administration.

6.) We need to do a better job of talking about how the Latino experience is different than the Black experience.

7.) H.R. should identify teachers of color who can participate in recruitment and job fair attendance.

8.) The Board should prioritize stability in administrative leadership.

9.) The Board and Administration should find ways to affirm and support excellence in the teaching profession.

The committee also added a tenth recommendation, to make a presentation or video showing the history of racism in Rockford including segregation lawsuits and desegregation.

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