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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Pastor stresses need for more minority hiring
In county schools

Friday, August 9, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin staff writer

The Rev. Thurman Echols expressed “great concerns for our school system” and a “great need” for more minority teachers and administrators at the Henry County School Board meeting Thursday.

Echols, pastor of Moral Hill Baptist Church in Axton, suggested that just as officials have said people are or will be coming to Henry County to see some innovative things the school division is doing, the school division should be sending representatives to other school divisions to see their successful minority recruitment programs.

He asked whether the division is looking in places that offer the best chance of finding minority educators, such as historically black colleges and universities.

The school division also should work with the faith community to promote education and provide more support for the National Society of Black Engineers, Echols suggested.

He urged stricter standards for how teachers and administrators dress. On that subject, Ridgeway District School Board member Francis Zehr praised schools Superintendent Jared Cotton for stressing dress code guidelines to staff.

Christy Landon, director of human resources for the school division, said the school division embraces diversity among its educators, administrators and students.

“A great deal of emphasis is placed on the recruiting process, and a recruiting team consisting of human resources representatives and administrators representing elementary, middle schools and high schools does attend a variety of job fairs each year, attending fairs at colleges and universities, including Longwood College, North Carolina A&T State University, Radford, Tri-College Education Fair (includes Lynchburg College, Randolph College and Sweetbriar College), Winston-Salem State University and job fairs sponsored by the Western Virginia Public Education Consortium (WVPEC) and the Virginia Association of School Personnel Administrators,” she stated in an email.

“Henry County Schools has updated all of its recruiting materials in the past year and uses materials that highlight points of pride for Henry County Schools, as well as local points of interest within our community, to attract educators from all backgrounds.”

Winston-Salem State and N.C. A&T are historically black colleges.

In an interview, Cotton said, “We definitely want our staff to represent our student population.” The staff works diligently to do so, and the division wants to have good role models, he said.

He said the school division is compiling some data, but the numbers of minority students graduating with teaching degrees from Virginia colleges is small. Even some historically black colleges and universities are not having as many education graduates as in the past, he said.

The Virginia Department of Education website also states that the availability of teachers in some areas is a major challenge in the nation and in Virginia. “Literature in this area suggests that while two million teachers may be needed nationally over the next ten years, traditional teacher preparation programs have only one million prospective teachers in the pipeline,” it states.

“In Virginia, it is strongly felt that ‘grow your own’ and high school programs capturing the interests of potential teachers may be one strategy toward resolving this challenge,” the website states.

Cotton agreed about the importance of such programs. He said the school division in the past had a partnership with Averett University in Danville in which teacher assistants could earn an education degree at Averett at the county schools’ expense, and after doing their student teaching, the graduates agreed to teach for Henry County Schools three years. Ten or 11 people, including some minorities, completed that program, he said. He added the program is not in this year’s budget, but that is something the school division could consider doing again.

Also, the school division provides internships for students to pursue various interests, including teaching, and some students are taking early childhood courses on their high school campuses, he said.

An advantage of “grow-your-own” programs is that people who grow up in Henry County and Martinsville are more likely to stay here, he said.

Cotton said the school division always can improve on its teacher recruitment efforts and it is open to any suggestions.

 

 
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