The York County School Division tackled topics in recent meetings such as staff diversity and the division’s program of studies.
During the Dec. 9 meeting of the YCSD School Board, Amanda Corbin-Staton, the division’s associate director of human resources, presented on teacher and staff diversity and retention.
“We acknowledge that there is work to do to close the gap between teacher and student minority in black African American representation,” she said. “We recognize that we are holding relatively steady with modest gains made since 2014 but are eager to see this gap begin to close even more.”
Data from the school division showed that since 2014, there has been a .91 percent increase in the total of minority teachers and a .56 increase in African-American representation in the classroom.
However, student minorities have rose more significantly during that time period. In 2014, there was only a minority student population in YCSD of 36.1 percent. In 2019, that number jumped to 41.1 percent of minority students while there is only 13.43 percent of total classroom teachers representing minorities in 2019.
During the meeting, Corbin-Staton was asked by Barbra Haywood, school board member, whether not having a teaching staff that reflected the student body’s diversity would impact student success.
“In my career as an educator and the research I have done, we definitely know that when a student feels cared about, first and foremost, when that teacher builds a relationship with them, that is when they really, really feel safe enough to take risks and learn about new things” Corbin-Staton said. “But we are mindful of the necessary requirement for students to see folks who like like them when they go into their classrooms.”
Corbin-Staton prefaced that statement by saying she did could not make a comment specifically on YCSD because she has not studied data related to the question.
To address that issue, Corbin-Staton said the school division is looking at a number of options. The first is recruiting from historically black colleges and universities, as well as creating an internal teaching program pipeline that would encourage students in YCSD schools currently to consider teaching opportunities. Additionally, she said principals and assistant principals will continue taking part in professional development about reducing implicit bias in the hiring process.
However, Corbin-Staton pointed out the teacher shortage is a nationwide problem and one that YCSD has been trying to address.
In fiscal year 2017, the school division started out the year with 10.2 vacancies but starting in fiscal year 2020, there were only five vacancies.
Corbin-Station said that an uptick in the hiring of Early Special Education teachers is part of the reason for the reduction in vacancies. However, she added that part of the reason the vacancies still persist, even at a lower number, is because staff are resigning after July 1 of the year.
The main reasons for licensed staff leaving the YCSD was retirement, followed by relocation and getting similar positions elsewhere.
“Now, once we recruit teachers and other staff to York County, our charge as an organization is to retain them,” she said.
To keep reducing the number, the school division will continue to recruit at a number of job fairs as well as address its working conditions, compensation and benefits packages to make it competitive against other markets.
The school board also met Tuesday and discussed various topics such as the approval to the proposed changes to the program of study. Each year, YCSD reviews and approved the division’s program of study based on recommendations from instructional staff and a committee of principals, counseling directors, instruction coordinators, and more.
This year, four courses were approved to be added to the program of studies:
- Make It Your Business: A course where students learn to operate a business in class.
- AP Computer Science Principles: A course where students learn creative problem solving and real-world applications for career.
- Sports Medicine II: A course that is needed as a sequential elective.
- Dance Arts IV Practicum: A course that provides advanced field experience for dance students.
The YCSD board will meet at 6 p.m. on Jan. 13 at York Hall.