Lincoln Public Schools Tries To Close the Student-Teacher Diversity Gap

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- The diversity of students at Lincoln Public Schools is at a historic high, 31 percent, but the percentage of diverse teachers is lagging at only 6 percent.

Leaving administrators hoping that changes soon. LPS knows the diversity gap between the students and the ones who teach them is growing.

"Everybody is looking for top quality students from diverse backgrounds," said Thomas Christie, multicultural school/community administrator at LPS.

However Christie says there's just not a lot of diverse teaching candidates in the hiring pool making the recruiting process very competitive.

"You see when you go to these fairs you see all people from different districts are going after these students," said Christie.

To give them the edge, LPS has a program called 'Grow Our Own' to essentially recruit students already in the high schools and colleges to come back to pay it forward and teach.

"One key piece is to make sure we tap that diversity and make sure that we encourage those folks, maybe stay in school here to come back through," said Eric Weber, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources.

Another option is to look beyond Nebraska.

"Be able to reach out and expand to other places and encourage those places to think about coming to Nebraska," said Weber.

But that may be easier said than done as diverse out-of-state teaching candidates may not think about coming to Nebraska.

"Many colleagues who say it's harder to recruit the south because a lot of the time those candidates won't want to come because of the winters and so forth, that can be a challenge," said Weber.

"Someone coming from South Carolina to here and never been here, I mean that's a culture shock," said Christie.

In the end, LPS says the core value in hiring someone is to make sure they are a great teacher.

"A good teacher is a good teacher," said Christie.

Weber says when the student sees someone that looks and acts like them, the students are more likely to perform better in school. Ten years ago, the diversity rate for students at LPS was at 17 percent.