Jefferson City Public Schools is, for now, primarily relying on the diversity and growth of in-state colleges and universities' education programs for the district's supply of teacher candidates, but given continuing challenges in those candidate pools, it may be some time before the hopes of that strategy are realized.
JCPS' staffing needs are caught between two realities: desires from the community and the school district for a more diverse staff to mirror the diversity of the student body and what the district's human resources department has continued to report as a growing shortage of teachers in general but specifically racially and ethnically diverse teachers and male teachers in the profession.
That's what JCPS Director of Human Resources Shelby Scarbrough shared Oct. 8 with the Board of Education as part of the latest district staffing report.
The district's staff diversity declined some since last year, according to her report to the board — from 9.2 percent to 7.9 percent. Scarbrough wasn't immediately available last week to say what the district's definition of success or progress from one year to the next is or would be in the immediate future when it comes to growing staff diversity.
"They're having the same struggles we are by getting students to come to their universities and then getting their students to enroll in their college of education programs," Scarbrough said of the challenges higher education partners face.
She told the News Tribune two weeks ago JCPS is for now focusing its teacher recruiting efforts in-state — where all the schools that graduate the most applicants for the district are located, including William Woods University, the University of Missouri, Lincoln University, Columbia College, the University of Central Missouri, Southwest Baptist University, Lindenwood University, Truman State University and Missouri State University.
Those institutions are listed in order of most recruits to JCPS — William Woods is the number one supplier.
Jim Concannon, William Woods' director of its education program, said his school, too, is seeking to attract more diverse students into the field of education.
"There is a need to get more diverse students into the teaching profession," he said. "We need more African Americans, more Hispanics and just overall more races, more ethnicities, teaching in our public schools."
Concannon said 87 percent of the 85 student undergraduate education class is white, and almost 86 percent female.
"Recruiting efforts are kind of on the forefront of my mind as I'm leading the school of education. The key is getting more applicants, ideally more applicants with diverse backgrounds, and creating avenues for those students to enroll and be successful at William Woods. Right now, one of the things that I and others have considered doing and are in the process of working on is developing more classes that high school students can take, that want to begin their education courses," he said.
He said the university hopes to have the low-cost online "Foundations of Education" course ready for summer school.
"It's going to be difficult to use MU and review trends over the last several years because of our enrollment challenges — although we are seeing significant improvements in this year's class and the preliminary numbers for next year are looking strong. However, saying that, our College of Education has seen increases in every category since 2016," MU's Director of Media Relations Christian Basi reported of the statistics of the College of Education in Columbia.
MU's enrollment in the College of Education has grown 4.8 percent since 2016 to more than 2,400 students — 5.5 percent of whom are African American; 3.89 percent Hispanic; and 2.86 percent of multiple races. Those are all three-year highs, with growth of between about one half of a percent and 1 percent.
The News Tribune also reached out to representatives of the education programs at Lincoln University, the University of Central Missouri and Columbia College for this story, but had not yet received a response.
Scarbrough said JCPS is working to partner with the dean of LU's education program, Marrix Seymore, Sr., on building a connection with a group there that is meant to support men of color in education, and that she had met with representatives from MU.
She added in the absence of a more diverse staff for the time being, an important question to ask is "how do we build the capacity of our staff to understand our students?"
The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics reports, as of the 2015-16 school year, 80.1 percent of teachers were white — down from 86.9 percent in 1987-88.
Meanwhile, the percent of teachers who are black also declined from 8.2 to 6.7 percent, but the percent of Hispanic teachers grew from 3 to 8.8 percent.