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Columbia public schools ramps up teacher recruitment with new approach

Some districts statewide have a difficult time attracting teachers to the district, especially minority teachers or ones who specialize in a certain area, like math.

Paul Katnik is the assistant commissioner for the office Educator Equality. It’s part of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

He said rural and very urban locations struggle more often around the state to retain these educators so its focusing on a ‘home grown teacher’ process that’s starting to get traction across Missouri.

“It’s related to our equity plan,” he said. “Part of the strategies in there are how do you address candidates ready for urban education, how do you handle teacher incentives or recruitment strategies?”

DESE found out about this process from districts across mid-Missouri, including Columbia Public Schools.

“The department right now is working on a recipe guide to give districts to say here is how you can develop a grow your own program,” said Katnik.

In short, districts support younger students through school up through college with resources that can help them establish education as a career. Then their home district would make sure they got an interview when they graduated and try to hire them.

Katnik said they met with CPS Wednesday to learn more about Columbia’s plan to recruit and retain teachers.

“As a school district we had identified some challenges of recruitment and retention of teachers here in CPS,” said Michelle Baumstark, a spokesperson for the district. “Not only teachers but teachers of different diverse backgrounds.”

Adrian Clifton is a graduate of the University of Missouri and a teacher at Rock Bridge High School. She grew up in the Columbia Public School District. While she didn’t benefit from a home grown program, she said she felt like she stayed in her hometown partly because she saw a chance for more diversity.

“The few teachers and administrators of color that I did experience, from a principal of mine in middle school and high school and some other administrators of color, did spark that magic in me,” she said. “I saw them in administration and I was like, okay I can see myself.”

Katnik said often minority students don’t want to continue on with their education in general if they feel like their teacher doesn’t have the same experiences they do as a minority.

About a year ago, Clifton helped found the Worley Street Roundtable, a group in Columbia that provides resources for poor and minority students to help them succeed in education and beyond.

“Many of our black, brown, and poor children are failing in the Columbia public school system,” she said. “As leaders in the community who come from that background we wanted to do something about it.”

The group works closely with CPS and most recently revitalized a long retired minority internship program, called EdX.

“That encourages students to have a summer experience in an educational environment,” said Baumstark. “To learn more about the educational system and create some of those relationships and support systems for them to continue throughout high school and post-secondary.”

Right now there are 10 students in the program. Most are working alongside teachers in summer school classrooms. Baumstark said one of the students is working in administration with Dr. Peter Stiepleman, the superintendent.

Interns must be a member of a racial minority and maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher to be considered. They are paid at an hourly rate while employed with CPS.

Baumstark said the homegrown teachers process for CPS involves lots of different facets and isn’t just one program. Starting at birth, the district is using its resources to embed teaching into the curriculum.

They’ll identify future teachers right around high school after years of focus on teaching and positive cultural representation.

Clifton said she hopes to work with the district and other community partners to accomplish more for minorities and the poor in Columbia.

“The big dream is to partner with the city, partner with other colleges in our city, provide them with scholarships, mentor ships to thrive in college,” she said.

They’ll also work with parents as well.

“This is their only child or first child going off to college and many parents are nervous,” she said. “We’re looking to ease their anxiety by providing them with resources. Everything from different things that they’re students can be doing now to providing them with teachers who can help schedule, financial aid help, or hooking them up with leaders from other colleges.”

While the goal is to get more students and minority students teaching in Columbia, Clifton and Baumstark said its still important to focus on getting kids through their education anyway.

“we definitely don’t think we failed if our children go through our program and go into engineering and theater,” Clifton said. “Our main goal is to plug children and families into their purpose, whatever that purpose may be.”

Other districts that might want to design a homegrown program can contact DESE for initial help or let the department know what ways its working on recruitment and retention.

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