After 36 years with the Washoe County School District, George Hardaway is about to retire.
But he laments the few minority educators who will remain once he’s gone.
“That’s the most discouraging thought,” said Hardaway, assistant principal of attendance at Wooster High School.
“We haven’t prepared other people of color to be in these positions.”
Jerry Holloway, the fourth Black educator hired in the district, retired this month after 42 years. He said he sympathizes with the district and its efforts to recruit a diverse educational staff.
Holloway said if anyone has ideas on how to increase minority staff, “I’m sure the Washoe County School District would take under advisement their opinions.”
This month, Hispanic, Blacks, Asian and Native American district employees are 6.44 percent of certified teachers and 8.97 percent of administrators in Washoe County, according to Fátima Rivas, district Hispanic liaison specialist.
“We know that’s an issue,” she said. “We know that we need to increase the number of bicultural minority teachers and it’s a task the district has been working on. However, there’s a lot that we really need to do.”
Hardaway has been encouraging the district to hire more Hispanic teachers and administrators for nearly two decades.
“Kids respond to people that look like them,” Hardaway said. “Kids respond to people who will take the time to understand their culture and be sensitive to their needs.
“We have bright children that are falling through the cracks and why are they falling through the cracks? Because they can’t identify with their teachers.”
Recruiting more minority educators is difficult across the county since the number seeking a degree in education has decreased, Holloway said. He said that’s partly because more fields, such as medicine and engineering, are seeking diverse staffs and recruiting and hiring a more ethnically diverse work staff.
“If you go back to the point in time when I went into education, it was not as easy to get into other career fields,” Holloway said. “I don’t want to say discrimination doesn’t occur anymore, but it would be a lot more difficult to discriminate now as overtly as discrimination use to occur.”
Lonnie Feemster, chairman of the Nevada commission for minorities affairs said the district should focus more on Nevada’s low high school graduation rates to help get more educators in the classroom.
“You can’t have one without the other,” Feemster said. “You can’t be a teacher or administrator if you don’t have a high school degree.”
Budget cuts to K-12 education make that goal difficult, Feemster said.
In December, Gov. Jim Gibbons ordered a 4.5 percent statewide cut that reduced funding to school districts by $95 million over the next two years. In May, he asked agencies and school districts to present “what-if” budgets with 14 percent cuts to operating costs.
“When you cut, some will bleed and some will die,” said Feemster, adding those who will die will be Nevada minorities because they are the most vulnerable and without resources.
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