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Schools aim to diversify staff

"The Central Kitsap School District plans on making a more concerted effort to hire minorities in the coming years. Assistant Superintendent Scott Menard said at the Aug. 23 school board meeting that the district currently employs a disproportionately low number of minority teachers compared to local demographics.It doesn't fully represent the community, Menard said.Menard said the district's lack of certain racial and ethnic groups, particularly Native American and African American teachers, is not specific to Central Kitsap. Schools all over the state are having problems hiring and retaining minority staff.Menard said minority teachers in the sciences, physical education and special education are particularly hard to find. Menard said the district will take steps to deepen its pool of applicants. He eventually would like to see district representatives go to career fairs with contracts in hand to present to potential applicants. People who are in this classification (minorities) are people that tend to be gone very early in the hiring process, Menard said. We have to be sure we can get to them first.Menard said the district hopes to get more applicants from www.wateach.com, a Web site where applicants can apply to any school district statewide. The district also will study what has been done in the past to retain teachers and continue efforts to make new teachers comfortable in their district.If the teachers stay for only a year, they're not of much use, Menard said.Although the district is required by state law to have an affirmative action plan, Menard said the ethnicity of applicants will be secondary if they are not qualified for their position.That state law remains on the books despite Initiative 200, which barred affirmative action programs in 1998. It did not, however, make recruitment and outreach activities illegal.It's not a preferential hiring model as much as it is a diversifying applicants model, Menard said.Special education teachers are also in short supply, Menard said. Many teachers start out in special education, but quickly move into regular classrooms after becoming frustrated with the paperwork and other non-classroom tasks involved in special education.Menard said the dearth of minority and specialized teachers is part of a larger statewide lack of teachers. College graduates, especially those with computer science and mathematics degrees, are choosing private industry over careers in education. There is a substantially different earning power for graduates, Menard said. As public education salaries fall farther and farther behind the public sector, it becomes harder and harder to hire them.With the first day of school a week away, Menard said Monday there were still 15 teaching positions open. "

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