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Pinellas sees slight increase in black and first-year teachers

By Colleen Wright
Times files
The Pinellas County school district has taken a first look at first-year teachers in struggling schools and minority hiring, both of which ticked slightly upward.

A year after the Pinellas County school district was chastised in a state report for clustering inexperienced teachers in the state's most struggling schools, the district has reported a first look at its teacher corps.

None of the schools had as much as 30 to 40 percent of staff with three years or less of experience as the report found in the 2014-15 school year, but some schools still skew high percentages of first-year teachers.

For the first quarter of the 2017-18 school year, the numbers look like this: four of the 40 teachers at Maximo Elementary, five out of 51 at Fairmount Park Elementary and 10 out of the 57 teachers at Campbell Park Elementary are first-year teachers. One out of every five teachers at Lakewood Elementary, or eight out of 39, is new to the profession.

Compare that to last year: three out of 40 teachers at Maximo, seven out of 53 teachers at Fairmount Park and four out of 53 at Campbell Park.

The schools mentioned above were highlighted in the Times' 2015 series Failure Factories, which chronicled the decline of five elementary schools in south St. Petersburg after the district abandoned integration efforts in 2007 and then failed to provide adequate support. The series helped inspire renewed litigation efforts that lead to the creation of the district's Bridging the Gap plan, which outlines a 10-year plan to improve education for black students.

One of the goals outlined in the plan is to increase hiring black teachers to mirror the district's black student population, which is about 18 percent. Black teachers currently make up just under 9 percent of the teaching corps, slightly up from 8.8 percent last year and 8.3 percent in 2015-16.

The district has also started keeping track of black applicants and black hires for teaching jobs. This year, 12.4 percent of applicants were black, and 14.8 percent of all teacher hires were black. Altogether, the district hired 28 percent of those who applied for teaching jobs this year.