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updated: 3/2/2014 5:38 PM

U-46 makes plan for minority hiring

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Elgin Area School District U-46 officials have developed a recruitment plan emphasizing the hiring of minorities and cultural competency training for employees.

The state's second-largest school district also is one of the most diverse -- 68 percent of its more than 40,000 students are ethnic minorities. Yet, it is among districts with the largest gap between the portion of minority students and that of minority teachers -- about 46 percentage points.

Among the ideas proposed is using social media to connect to a larger, more diverse talent pool of qualified candidates, and offering coaching for administrators involved in hiring on diversity recruitment, interviewing techniques, and cultural sensitivity. Officials propose establishing a diversity staffing advisory committee to help with that process.

Officials also plan to tap into teaching candidates from foreign countries who could be sponsored for work visas, foster relationships with historically black colleges and universities that can help identify potential hires, and participate in diversity job fairs and conferences.

U-46's human resources department also will be reorganized as part of the plan to develop a recruitment team that will help build professional partnerships with colleges and universities; community, neighborhood and church groups; and minority professional organizations, Melanie Meidel, assistant superintendent of human resources, told the school board earlier this week.

"The new recruitment model will allow recruiters to screen applications on a daily basis," Meidel said. "This is just one piece of the strategic human resources plan. We have to redesign the human resources department to support this plan. Everybody wants to get out there and start recruiting."

The district's 2,256 teachers include 386 Latinos, 48 blacks, and 28 Asians. Of the 5,988 employees in the district, 901 are Latino, 268 are black, and 113 are Asian.

The district is gearing up for hiring for the 2014-2015 school year.

Officials said they need to change the current screening and selection practices so that human resources department recruiters screen all applicants before forwarding candidates for review by administrators.

Officials also hope to increase the number of ethnically diverse candidates in the student teaching pool and increase student teacher placements.

The district placed 127 student teachers in classrooms this year, including one black student, five Latino students and 11 Asian students, officials said.

"There is so much value in ... making sure that we're really getting into the high schools and encouraging our students to pursue education," school board member Amy Kerber said.

Board member Traci O'Neal Ellis cautioned staff members against using the phrase "qualified minority candidates" when talking about diversity recruitment.

"It is unacceptable. It's offensive," she said. "Of course we are going to hire qualified people. We are a quality employer. We are sophisticated. We know what our standards are and they don't deviate, and so we don't need to make people super comfortable about emphasizing that we are hiring qualified candidates."

Ellis also expressed concern about what happens with minority candidates once they are hired.

"We have some holes in our system once candidates do come into the system," she said, referring to support and mentorship. "Those that aren't personally sourced are getting lost."

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