When leaders at some of our most prestigious private schools look out over the ranks of their faculties and professional staffs, what they see contrasts starkly with the ethnic makeup of their student bodies.
While teachers and administrators are mostly white, the faces of their students are increasingly reflecting a changing America, which by mid-century, will see blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups outnumber whites.
The heads of nine private schools in Durham and Orange counties want their students prepared to live in that new America. So, they got together more than a year ago to work on a strategy to recruit more non-traditional teaching candidates and teachers of color to campuses.
What they came up with — the heads of schools meet monthly as part of a collaborative consortium — is the “Diversity Teacher Job Fair for Triangle Private Schools,” the first of which was held last year.
This year’s diversity job fair will take place Saturday, Feb. 24 from 10 a.m., to noon at the Duke School, 3716 Erwin Road, Durham.
“We believe it’s important to help our students navigate in an increasingly diverse world,” said Dave Michelman, head of Duke School. ‘From our perspective, we understand that our schools are predominately white and that it’s important to create a faculty that is more reflective of our student body.”
The Duke School has just under 500 students, one-third of whom are students of color. Michelman said about 15 percent of the faculty is non-white and about one-third of the school’s professional staff is nonwhite.
At Durham Academy, 15 percent of teachers are also nonwhite while 36 percent of the school’s 1,203 students are nonwhite.
Michael Ulku-Steiner, head of school at Durham Academy, said it’s important that the makeup of the faculty more closely resembles the student body.
“It matters for every single one of our students to have the widest perspective possible in front of them,” Ulku-Steiner said.
But Ulku-Steiner stressed that diversity also includes educators from non-traditional teaching backgrounds such as a scientist, for example, who is ready to leave the corporate world and wants to give teaching a try.
The larger goal, Ulku-Steiner said, is to find teachers who are capable of changing students’ lives for the better.
“We’re casting the widest net possible to get those life-changing teachers,” Ulku-Steiner said.
He estimated that about 230 teaching candidates registered for the job fair last years and roughly 110 attended.
“We hope that we can out do those numbers,” Ulku-Steiner said.
Neither Michelman nor Ulku-Steiner found good matches for the positions they had open last year, but both said they did get lots of good resumes and leads on potential future hires.
At The Hill Center, an educational non-profit that serves K-12 students from more than 70 schools who are struggling academically, Bryan Brander, head of school at The Hill Center, said 12 percent to 15 percent of the schools teachers and staff are nonwhite while the student body is 20 percent to 25 percent nonwhite.
Brander said the percentage of students served by The Hill Center who are nonwhite increases when you include summer programs and tutoring programs.
He said the job fair provides the school with an opportunity to reach teachers of color and those with diverse experiences who might not be aware of the school.
“We’re trying to ensure our teachers and staff are representative of the students in our building,” Brander said. “We feel that diversity, which includes backgrounds, experiences, training and culture, increases the strength of our program from a delivery standpoint.”
Want to Go?
The “Diversity Teacher Job Fair for Triangle Private Schools” will be held Saturday, Feb. 24 from 10 a.m. - noon at Duke School, 3716 Erwin Road, Durham N.C., 27705.
Here is a list of the participating schools:
Carolina Friends School
Emerson Waldorf School
The Hill Center
Montessori Children’s House of Durham
Montessori Community School
Triangle Day School
Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill