Board of Alders Education Committee member and Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen held a hearing to discuss the issue of diversity in the New Haven Public Schools workforce on Thursday evening.

At the hearing, Brackeen said that diversity in the classroom and racial sensitivity training for teachers are especially important in New Haven, where fewer than 10 percent of educators in New Haven Public Schools identify as a person of color, compared to 45 percent of students who identify that way.

“We can work collaboratively together to ensure … a diverse teaching force here in the city,” Brackeen said Thursday.

Minority recruitment is a part of the district’s long-term strategy, NHPS Deputy Superintendent Ivelise Velazquez said at the hearing.  In the past few years, NHPS central officers have created a number of different initiatives to increase diversity and racial sensitivity among teachers, including a four-part series on cultural competency. In addition, she said, district administrators are learning to coach other teachers and engage in discussion about what acting with cultural competency looks like on a day-to-day basis.

At the hearing, Ebony Walmsley, a representative of the nongovernmental organization Educators for Excellence, shared research demonstrating the need for New Haven Public Schools to recruit more teachers of color. In an email to the News, Walmsley said that a recent national survey found that 76 percent of educators of color say they prepared to provide culturally responsive instruction to their students, compared to 66 percent of white educators.

On the state level, Connecticut has taken action to ensure schools hire a more diverse faculty. In May, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed legislation addressing minority teacher recruitment and retention in schools across Connecticut.

At Thursday’s hearing, NHPS Director of Human Resources Lisa Mack discussed features of the legislation signed by Malloy, and noted that New Haven Public Schools has held recruitment symposiums at historically black colleges and invited at least 30 deans and presidents of such colleges to New Haven to discuss hiring practices. Mack added that New Haven Public Schools also works with Teach for America, New Haven Promise and other education nonprofits, as well as local universities, to address recruitment issues.

“We’re intentional about our efforts, and we’re open to hearing suggestions,” Mack said to the alders.

At the end of the meeting, the committee voted to establish a working group to address the issue of teacher diversity.

Isabel Bysiewicz |

John Besche |