By Mike Steely
The Knox County Schools System has a diversity imbalance with the percentage of minority students greatly outnumbering that of minority teachers.
Knox County Schools’ Human Resources Director Scott Bolton spoke of the situation at a meeting of the Joint Education Committee recently. That group was established many years ago to improve cooperation between the Board of Education, the school administration, and the Knox County Commission.
Bolton told the members the school system is planning to hire a Director of Diversity this summer within its Human Resources Department. He also said the system has been advocating for hiring out-of-state teacher graduates, attending teacher’s fairs for recruiting and focusing on historic Black colleges for candidates. KCS’s first Virtual Fair produced a number of new out-of-state applicants.
He cited a lack of diversity among students in educational prep schools.
He also said the school system is working with the University of Tennessee in a partnership and funding interim students for “aspiring teacher positions” for students of color. He added that the system is looking at Flagship Scholarships for students at Austin-East, Fulton and Central high schools.
Bolton also spoke of the low $7,132 per student annual funding by the state and said the local system has “got to take an equal bit” of the funding.
Minority students make up 32% of the KCS population but only 6.1%, or 282 out of 4,643, of the instructors are minorities. Bolton said the system will need 1,495 teachers of color and is looking to achieve equality among the teacher-student ratio possibly in ten years.
Board of Education member Evetty Satterfield chaired the meeting and said there needs to be a “cultural connection” in classrooms and added, “We have a long way to go.”
Members of the Joint Education Committee include Satterfield, Patti Bounds, Kristi Kristy and Daniel Watson from the Board of Education and Knox County Commissioners Dasha Lundy, Courtney Durrett, Richie Beeler and Carson Dailey.