SLP Schools new hires more diverse

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.

When Ryan Stromberg, director of human resources and organizational development, started working in Spring Lake Park Schools seven years ago, the district employed just four teachers of color.

With concerted efforts to recruit staff that mirrors the student body, Spring Lake Park Schools’ workforce has become increasingly diverse.

So far this year, 79 staff have been hired for the 2017-2018 school year, 19 of those people of color, nearly one-fourth of new employees.

Sixty-two of the 79 are teachers, 11 of them teachers of color.

Overall, 37 of the 398 teachers working in the district are people of color, or 9.3 percent. That’s a long way from matching the 40.3 percent students of color attending Spring Lake Park Schools, but it’s far better than when teachers of color made up just 1.5 percent of Spring Lake Park’s teachers in 2010-2011.

“That’s huge progress,” Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg said. It’s “still not where we want to be, … but that’s significant progress.”

Spring Lake Park has nearly double the share of teachers of color than the state on average. In Minnesota 4.23 percent of educators in the public K-12 system are of color, according to the 2017 Report of Teacher Supply and Demand in Minnesota’s Public Schools, produced by the Minnesota Department of Education. Across the metro, the average is a bit higher at 6.8 percent.

Spring Lake Park does have a higher percentage of students of color making up its student body than the state on average: 40.3 percent compared to 32.5 percent, according to MDE data.

“If our employees would reflect our students, that would be awesome,” Stromberg said. “If we continue to create space for all great educators to show up, make mistakes, have a great time doing it (and) recover well, it’s going to continue to attract really talented educators to Spring Lake Park Schools. In that process, it’s attracting teachers of color. It’s attracting other teachers to choose us.”

Needs assessments reveal that perspectives based on race are still lacking in Spring Lake Park Schools, and the district will continue working to remedy that, according to Stromberg.

“We don’t necessarily just hire at that first level, that first applicant pool. But the more times we can look at an applicant pool, the more times we can meet as many people as possible, the better off we’re going to be (in) brining that multiple perspective.”

First and foremost, “you’ve got to create a great culture that people want to come to,” Stromberg said. “We’ll hopefully continue to progress in the right direction.”

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