Reduced rent, gym memberships could be offered to lure minority teachers to Fayette

Reduced apartment rent, a one-year gym membership, and an on-the-spot teaching contract might be used to lure top minority teachers to Fayette County Public Schools, where there is a shortage.

“The landscape has changed,” Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk said. “We are competing for a shrinking pool against districts that are offering more.”

At the Oct. 24 school board meeting, district Human Resource Director Jennifer Dyar provided data that showed Fayette County needs more minority teachers at all levels.

For example, in Fayette County high schools, 91.13 percent of teachers are white compared with 5.22 percent of teachers who are black and 1.83 percent who are Hispanic. The numbers are much the same at Fayette’s elementary and middle schools, school officials told the Herald-Leader.

At all the schools in the district, 22.4 percent of students are black and 15.1 percent of students are Hispanic, according to the Kentucky Department of Education.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have reported similar shortages in other U.S. cities.

Caulk said that board members Ray Daniels and Daryl Love were among those who have asked what the district was going to to fix the lack of minority teachers. What would be the strategy?

“I can tell you what we’re not going to,” Caulk said. “We’re not going to do what we’ve always done. Clearly we want … a different strategy. ”

Caulk said in the past, Fayette recruiters might offer a recent college graduate considered top talent the promise of a job interview and a permanent substitute teacher position.

Caulk said minority graduates are getting better offers in other cities, like a contract on the spot.

“We’re going to change our strategy as we look ahead for this hiring season,” Caulk said. This spring, the district will be taking a minority recruiting team to talk to talented teacher candidates.

Officials are hoping that, in addition to the school district offering a teaching contract, business leaders will help, such as Lexington apartment owners offering reduced rent or waived security deposits for top candidates.

Board chairwoman Melissa Bacon said businesses could also offer a free gym membership for a year or other incentives. Love said district recruiters need to let potential candidates know that the district has an institute for new teachers.

The team can also sell Lexington as a good place to live, Caulk said.

He said he would like to determine whether minority teachers working in the district are from Kentucky or from another state. District recruiters want to work with the University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University, Eastern Kentucky University and other colleges to recruit top students.

With the school district hoping to open career academies at high schools, Caulk said he is hoping that Fayette County “can build its own pipeline” of educators.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears