VanHoose Education Center

VanHoose Education Center | Photo by Olivia Krauth

A teacher residency program may help tackle Jefferson County Public Schools’ teacher shortage and attract minority educators, officials said Tuesday.

The program, still in its development stage, is one of several initiatives JCPS is floating to recruit and retain more employees of color. District officials shared four of their ideas in a school board work session Tuesday night.

Aspiring teachers would enter the residency program, work on their certification at a local college and teach four days a week in an accelerated improvement school. A mentor “master teacher” would support and advise the resident, officials explained.

After the yearlong program, residents would sign on to teach in high need schools in JCPS for four to five years. The teacher residency program would be one of the first of its kind in Kentucky.

It could also help people make the jump from a different field into teaching — a way to solve a statewide teacher shortage. Bringing in people from STEM or technical fields can help fill high-demand, low-supply teaching positions.

Officials offered limited details, including an estimated cohort size, in the first public discussion of the proposal during a school board work session Tuesday night. Board members seemed supportive of the plan, but it was not put to the vote.

John Marshall, JCPS’ chief equity officer, told reporters the residency program must be approved by the board before it can be implemented. The board has already approved a director for the program, and that person has been hired and has started designing the program, Marshall added.

He estimated the teacher residency program could begin fall 2020. Chief of Schools Devon Horton estimated the program would cost at least $1.2 million, depending on how much the district pays the residents.

As part of its racial equity plan, JCPS is focused on boosting the number of minority educator hires. While minority students make up the majority of JCPS’ student body, minority teachers make up less than 20% of the district’s teachers.

Additional recruitment and retention efforts for school principals are also in the works, officials said. Marshall said hiring more minority principals can in turn help retain teachers of color because they can understand and relate to the challenges teachers face.

District officials also pitched TRADES, a skilled-trade-centered program. If approved as presented, those in trades like electrical workers will receive more training and will automatically be promoted as they gain certifications and experience. In presenting the idea, Chief Operating Officer Mike Raisor said the program can develop talent and then retain them in the competitive trade fields.

Finally, the district discussed the idea of instituting a policy to make more purchases from businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans.

The announcement comes weeks after JCPS formally announced a partnership with Simmons College to create an exploratory course for Simmons students and college graduates to learn about ways into teaching.