School district works to increase diversity in staff
(Credit: Montclair Public Schools)
Black hires in the Montclair school district are up 17% from last year.
At the Montclair Board of Education's annual retreat, on Aug. 8, Human Resources Director Damen Cooper presented data on new hires and the district's efforts to increase staff diversity.
The demographic makeup of new hires for the 2022-2023 school year is 59.5% white, 27% Black, 10.8% Hispanic and 2.7% Asian, according to data presented by Cooper.
The district is still actively hiring in the last few weeks before the 2022-23 school year begins, he said. The first day of school is Tuesday, Sept. 6. Although the percentage of new hires is still majority white, the percentage of new employees of color has increased from last year.
To work toward achieving more diversity, Cooper said he would enroll the district in minority recruitment programs, like the Central Jersey Program for the Recruitment of Diverse Educators, an organization that helps school districts recruit diverse employees, he said.
Once the Montclair school district becomes a part of the organization, which Cooper said will happen for the coming school year, it will have access to the group’s minority recruitment fair, which will be “extremely critical to the recruitment of diversity in the school district,” he said at the retreat.
In addition, the district has joined NJSchoolJobs, a network that advertises open job positions for schools in New Jersey and which held two virtual job fairs in the 2021-22 school year. Cooper said he was also collaborating with historically Black colleges and universities in the Northeast to recruit for the district.
The most recent report on pre-K to 12th grade enrollment showed that white male students account for over 26% of those enrolled and white female students 24%. Black male students make up 11% while Black female students make up 10.9%. Hispanic male students are 6.5% and Hispanic female students are 5%. Asian male and female students were just over 2% each. Mixed-race students account for 5% each.
Though the student makeup of the school district is diverse, according to the enrollment report, administrators see a need for a more diverse staff, as the number of students in the English Language Learner program has tripled since 2017. The majority of ELL students are of Latino descent. But hiring of Hispanic staff fell by 4.2% this year compared to last year.
A total breakdown for the current district staff was not immediately available.
At the Aug. 8 meeting, schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds shared his support for the efforts of Cooper and his department in seeking and retaining employees in the schools.
“When you look at our principal leaders, they are diverse, they look just like our students, and I’m going to keep us moving forward in that,” Ponds said. “That is a drive for us in the district, and we will keep diversity in the forefront.”