WXXI AM News

Connections Live at The Little: Degrees of Diversity

Dec 9, 2016

Credit Randy Gorbman / WXXI News

At the Little Theatre in Rochester, teachers, superintendents, parents and school board members discussed ways to bring more diversity to local teaching staffs.

On Friday, WXXI hosted a community discussion to wrap up our week of reporting on teacher diversity. Evan Dawson reports.

Brandon White is a teacher in the Rochester City School District –

He said that for too many students of color, there are not enough mentors who look like them, and school is not a positive experience.

“There was one thing that was said about getting more RCSD kids to be RCSD teachers, and why they wouldn’t want to be, and I returned with the question, ‘Why would the convict want to be the correctional officer?’”

Simeon Bannister is a parent and board member in the Rush-Henrietta district; he said that teacher diversity will only get addressed when the community views it as a problem for everyone.

“If all of a sudden, graduation rates dipped below 50 percent across the county, particularly outside the city, would we have a crisis in Rochester? Absolutely. The real problem here is not just for kids of color. A bigger problem is that all of us are suffering because we don’t have diversity.”

Shaun Nelms offered an optimistic note to close the conversation –

He’s the superintendent of East upper and lower schools in Rochester. Nelms said if districts commit to hiring candidates of color, it’s within their grasp to do it.

“There are tons of fraternities and sororities and organizations throughout the community that are just waiting to be invited. And when I hear superintendents say, ‘There’s no candidate pool,’ what I hear them saying is, ‘I don’t know how to access people within those groups.’ And so there are educators out there. There are black teachers who unemployed right now in Rochester.”

All panelists agreed that awareness is step one – action is harder, and is the real measure of progress. 

Listen to the complete Connections show from The Little:

Hour 1:

Hour 2:

Find out how diverse your district is on our interactive map

Click here to see all the data from Monroe County, Erie County, Onondaga County, the Finger Lakes region, and regional colleges.

Degrees of Diversity is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Listen to all the stories in a podcast or on our series page.