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School board wants more diverse staff

Jefferson City Public School leaders are working to recruit more faculty members who reflect the makeup of the student body, but the district hasn’t yet seen a marked increase in the diversity of the workforce.

The district employs 1,197 full-time employees and 140 part-time employees in a variety of capacities, the Jefferson City Board of Education learned Monday night.

This school year 94 percent of the full-time workforce was white and 6 percent were minorities. About 10 percent of the district’s part-time workers are minorities.

“Our numbers look pretty close to last year’s,” said Penny Rector, the district’s legal counsel and human resources director. “It’s an area we want to grow and improve. We want to diversify our workforce.”

In comparison, according to the 2010 census, 21.7 percent of Jefferson City’s population is considered either black; American Indian or Alaskan Native; Asian; Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; of Hispanic or Latino origin; or a mix of two or more races. Of that number, the majority — 16.9 percent — are black.

In Cole County, about 16 percent of the population is considered a minority; of that group, 11.5 percent are black.

According to school district personnel, about 25 percent of the students who attend the Jefferson City Public Schools are minorities.

Rector said she is striving to identify more quality candidates by reaching out to students at historically black colleges like Harris Stowe State University, Lincoln University and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

She noted Lincoln is among the top five colleges from which JCPS recruits its employees. She said she’s engaged in “regular communication” with the LU faculty to explain what the district is looking for in a qualified teaching applicant.

She also noted that, since January, the district has implemented the “Netchamia Talent Ed” application system, which allows administrators to do a much better job of keeping track of who is applying to the district.

Since it has been implemented, 2,112 applications have been received for openings in the district and many of those people applied for two or more positions.

Of the applications received, 114 people have been hired by the Jefferson City Public Schools. Most of the people who were hired come from the University of Missouri, LU or the University of Central Missouri.

“That’s no surprise; they are here in the area,” Rector said.

Most of them were referred by other employees, but 16 were recruited at job fairs. And the district’s website was the best place to search for jobs, Rector added.

Of the people who applied, 85 percent were white, 5 percent were black and about 9 percent didn’t indicate a race.

Understanding how employees learn about job openings and get recommended for positions helps her do her job, she explained.

“This helps us determine what modalities make the most sense,” she told the school board.

Rector also updated board members about why employees leave the district. According to exit surveys, more than 65 percent retire and about 20 percent moved away from the school district. The rest said they left for a variety of reasons, from “accepting a teaching position” in another community, to “continuing my education” to “entering private industry.”

According to the survey, none reported leaving because they were dissatisfied with the working conditions, salary, co-workers, etc.

Marie Peoples, who serves on the school board, said she believes the situation vis-a-vis minority hiring is improving.

“We hear we are not getting applicants, but 15 percent of the applicants are minorities,” she said, adding: “It’s not just students who need to be comfortable with the staff, staff have to be comfortable with the students they teach.”

In other business, the school board:

• Adopted the 2013-18 JCPS Strategic Plan, which is available online at www.jcschools.us.

• Applauded several school teams for their Character Plus work. East Elementary was recognized for its “Train Like an Astronaut” program. Lawson Elementary was recognized for its “Practicing the Character Traits at Home” program. Southwest Early Childhood Center was recognized for its “Cruising with Character and Destination Graduation” programming and for its efforts to pioneer character education for its youngest students. And, the Jefferson City Academic Center was recognized for its service learning program at Kirchner State School for the severely handicapped.

• Heard a report on the district’s summer school program.

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