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Politics

San Diego Unified Outlines Efforts To Diversify Its Teacher And Administrator Ranks

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.
Milan Kovacevic
The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.

San Diego Unified School District officials unveiled plans Tuesday aimed at diversifying the ranks of teachers and other school staff, the latest step in an ongoing effort to address racial inequities at the state’s second-largest school district.

The district will be launching two “pathways” to train both San Diego Unified students and community members to become teachers or district administrators, according to the presentation at the San Diego Unified School Board’s regular meeting.

San Diego Unified Outlines Efforts To Diversify Its Teacher And Administrator Ranks
Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

“Leaders in the district who come from the experience of our students, we think, leads to better teaching practices,” said School Board President Richard Barrera. “It’s also more inspiring and motivating to a student to see someone who reflects their experiences.”

RELATED: San Diego County Sees Big Drop In English Learner Enrollment

VID: San Diego Unified Outlines Efforts To Diversify Its Teacher And Administrator Ranks

The first of these pathways focuses on recruiting San Diego Unified students to be future teachers in the district. Qualified students will receive stipends while they are enrolled in teacher credentialing programs and be guaranteed employment in the district if they complete the program.

The district will also create a program for parents or other community members to become administrators within the district.

Officials hope these initiatives will eventually lead to the teacher and leadership demographics reflecting those of the student population. Right now, there is a wide gap -- 76% of students identify as people of color, while just 35% of teachers identify as people of color. Among principals and other district leaders, 60% identify as people of color.

The overall goal is to increase the teacher and administrator percentages by 3% per year for the next five years.

“This district is committed to removing the barriers that prevent increased diversity and is focused on implementing the values and actions that will produce positive results,” said School Board Trustee Michael McQuary during Tuesday’s meeting. “Having a more diverse staff matters and it will result in positive outcomes for all students.”

Student Board Member Zachary Patterson applauded the effort to retain students within the community as teachers.

RELATED: San Diego County Public Schools Saw Big Enrollment Drops Due To Pandemic

“I think it’s a unique approach that ensures we have this community advocacy and community support,” Patterson said. “Who better to teach a student than a student who actually went to that school?”

Acacia Thede, the district’s chief human resources officer, said that while state law prohibits the district from setting demographic quotas for its employee pool, these efforts will naturally produce a more diverse workforce in the district.

“What we are doing is paying attention to our own practices,” Thede said. “We’re ensuring that our practices don’t reflect systems of racism and bias.”

San Diego has a goal of ending all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2025. But progress has been slow on this “vision zero” plan, and many bike and pedestrian safety projects have yet to be built. Meanwhile, San Diego Unified announced plans to diversify its teachers and administrators. Plus, the 48 Hour Film Project and the San Diego International Film Festival have been partnering for years to highlight short films made by local filmmakers. This Friday the best of the pandemic short films will be available in a virtual Shorts Fest.