Kingston superintendent reports on efforts to hire more teachers, staff of color

(File photo by Will Dendis)

The Kingston City School District is continuing its efforts to bring greater diversity into the classroom, both as a reflection of the student population and to provide a more varied experience for all students in the district.

“It’s something I think every school district is looking for, diversity in their faculty and staff, a faculty and staff that looks like the makeup of the student body,” said Superintendent Paul Padalino in a week he included diversity hiring among other goals he’ll be reporting on during 2018-19 that are aligned with the district’s Comprehensive Improvement Plan.

At a meeting of the Board of Education on Aug. 29, Padalino said he plans on reporting on the new mental health curriculum (Sept. 12), anti-bullying (Nov. 14), grant-funded programs (Nov. 28), annual professional performance reviews (April 1, 2019), and the State Education Department’s basic education data system (April 24, 2019). Quarterly reports on the implementation of the Restorative Justice Program and student suspensions are also in the works.

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Padalino said he also expects to have frequent updates on the progress of renovations at the former Frank L. Meagher Elementary School, which will be converted into a district-wide pre-kindergarten hub and district headquarters ahead of the 2019-20 school year.

As for diversity hiring, the district has been making a greater effort over the past few years to hire top-quality teachers to reflect the diversity in its student body, which is 20 percent Latino and 15 percent African-American.

“It would be beautiful if it was close to or equal to our student population,” Padalino said. “If we could have a faculty and staff that mirrored that, that would be fantastic. I think that’s the goal. It’s a lofty goal, it really is. But it’s a matter of working with colleges and universities, who are also trying to get diverse student bodies into the education fields.”

Among the groups the district is working with is Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Teachers (TSTT), which was founded in 1994 with a goal of giving minorities a career path into education. While the two largest minority groups in the district total around 35 percent of the student population, TSTT estimates that just 15 percent of teachers across the country are either African American or Hispanic.

“We’ve got a long way to go, no doubt,” said Padalino. “The percentages from our student body to our staff is way off. And we want to make sure that we’re doing that while hiring the top-quality teachers for our kids.”

In addition to working with TSTT, Padalino said the district has contacted colleges to sell teachers in training on Kingston.

“We reached out to CUNY last year and hosted a full day where we brought in Latino potential educators to show them Kingston and what we do here and encourage them to apply here,” Padalino said. “That’s our fastest growing subgroup, Latino students. They’ve outpaced our African-American students by a few percentage points now, which is something a lot of people didn’t expect. We want to continue to make sure people know we really do want a diverse faculty and staff, so we want to encourage people who are thinking about getting into education who may be part of those underrepresented groups to apply here.”

Padalino said that the district’s diversity hiring efforts have even brought some new teachers back into the district where they themselves were educated.

“There are some kids who think teaching isn’t an accessible profession for them, and I think we need to make sure they know it is accessible, and we are hiring with diversity in mind,” Padalino said. “We were lucky this year that we had a couple of local kids who look like our kids and come from where our kids come from. … We’ve been lucky to grab some homegrown people, and I think it’s really important to have people here that know our community.”

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