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CPS wants more Black teachers in the classroom by next school year

Kenny Eliason

Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Iranetta Wright wants the district to be at full staff by the first day of school this fall, but she wants those teachers to be more diverse than in years past.

At Monday's Board of Education meeting, Wright presented a breakdown of teaching staff and students in the district.

The numbers showed that almost 73% of the teachers in the school district are White, while over 60% of the students are Black and 7% identify as multi-racial. The number of students who do not speak English as their first language increased 85% from 2018 to 2022, increasing the need for foreign language-speaking teachers.

Wright says the district will actively recruit teachers of all backgrounds, but will also make a targeted effort to find educators that reflect the racial makeup of the majority of students.

"As a district, we have not done a concerted effort in those areas," Wright said. "We want to make sure that while we're recruiting all, we're also making sure that we're doing some concerted recruitment in the other areas."

Black men, for example, make up only 4% of CPS teachers. CPS plans to search for more diverse candidates at universities and job fairs across the region.

Local education advocate Carlton Collins has spent years working in programs like Cincinnati's Literacy Lab to implement culturally responsive education programs for students of color, and mentoring young black men pursuing careers in education. Collins says CPS has tried in the past to increase the number of Black male teachers, but says the district will need to change its culture to welcome Black men instead of rejecting them.

"The reality is that a lot of people have trauma within the educational context," Collins told WVXU. "Somewhere within that education spectrum, they were harmed and it created a relationship that is very much in disrepair."

Collins says Black students — especially Black male students — have historically faced harsher discipline and overall have a more negative experience associated with education.

"Given the pipeline to prison, given the fact that we're at the top of suspensions, the top of expulsions, the highest in terms of recommendations for special education — we haven't totally reimagined the system or the norms in terms of our biases within education. That hasn't changed." Collins said.

Superintendent Wright agrees a change in culture is critical to keeping new hires in the district long-term, saying 70% of CPS teachers left the district within their first five years (citing data from 2016 to 2019).

Write says part of the culture change will be doing a better job of listening to staff concerns and fixing bigger issues like teacher pay.

Wright says pay for new teachers is not keeping up with the rising cost of living and while that's not always the main issue for new teachers, increasing pay could lead to better relations and help the district address other problems.

Cincinnati Public Schools says anyone interested in a teaching position for next year can apply in person at the Employee Care Center or online.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.