Dist. 11 works to recruit and retain diverse workforce

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

Anoka-Hennepin’s Recruitment of a Diverse Workforce Task Force has created a plan with two goals and six objectives, which it presented to the School Board in a work session June 12.

The district, like most in Minnesota, has a workforce that fails to mirror the community it serves in regards to diversity, particularly racial diversity.

The district has 27.5 percent students of color, but only 5.2 percent of its workforce are people of color.

“Although we are trending towards a higher number of employees of color, we are significantly disproportionate to our community and students,” states a briefing to the board authored by Sarah Kriewall, director of employee services, and Nicole Tuescher, executive director of human resources.

The Recruitment of a Diverse Workforce Task Force’s two primary goals are to attract a diverse workforce that reflects the community more broadly and to retain diverse employees.

After having reviewed the plan with stakeholders, the district will now begin implementing the plan having secured the School Board’s blessing.

To attract a diverse workforce, the district will implement strategies to increase the number of candidates of color applying for jobs in Anoka-Hennepin.

With few people of color going into the teaching profession, Anoka-Hennepin needs to make itself attractive to those who are pursuing a career in education, Tuescher said.

Ensuring the job application and hiring processes do not present barriers is one way to do so.

District staff will assist sites in setting up interviews with candidates, and leaders must be trained to help the district meet its goals.

To retain diverse employees, the district hopes to hear from employees of color about what is going well and what isn’t working for them in Anoka-Hennepin. Strategies can be implemented to improve experiences, and strategies already working well can be shared with other employees of color.

Mentorship opportunities are key, something Verna Wong, teacher of English learners at Champlin Park High School, noted in Education Minnesota’s Educator Policy Innovation Center’s report on Minnesota’s teacher shortage, released last year.

Wong, a teacher of color herself, helped organize the Anoka Hennepin Teachers of Color Coalition, which partners with Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota to run events each trimester and provide mentorship opportunities.

“Often, you are working with primarily white colleagues, and it is draining when you are put in a position to speak on behalf of large and diverse groups,” Wong is quoted as saying in the EPIC report. “These conversations do not develop my knowledge or skills as a culturally-responsive educator. Instead, they can be emotionally charged for me, and I feel even more isolated when they become difficult.”

Board Member William Fields questioned if these recommendations mean someone’s race will be a factor in hiring.

The most qualified teacher will be hired regardless of race, but steps can be taken to make sure Anoka-Hennepin is recruiting a more diverse applicant pool, according to Superintendent David Law.

“We need to be intentional about being attractive,” he said.

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