Police & Fire

School district plans to balance teacher diversity

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

Of the 151 certified staff employed with Arkadelphia Public Schools, 127 of them are white, 22 of them are black and two of them are Hispanic. That’s going to change if all goes according to plan.

In an attempt to balance diversity among its teachers to reflect the district’s pool of students, the Arkadelphia Board of Education on Tuesday approved a three-year action plan to increase the number of minority teachers and administrators. It was noted at the meeting that the plan isn’t necessarily new, but that the state Department of Education provided the district with a template to outline its action plan.

According to data from the 2021-22 school year, the student body was 51% white, 35% black, 7% Hispanic, 5% mixed race, 1% Asian and less than 1/2% Pacific Islander. The district employed a teacher pool consisting of 83% white, 15% black and 2% Hispanic. There was even less diversity among administrators prior to the 2022-23 school year, with 90% of them white and 10% of them black, according to the data. However, with the addition of one minority administrator this year, those statistics now reflect an 80/20 mix.

“I think the recruiting effort on our part as a district is mandatory, or this is never going to work.”

— Blake Bell, Arkadelphia school board president

Using a three-pronged action plan the school district hopes to recruit minority educators, retain a diverse workforce and push more students — especially minorities — to pursue careers in education.

With the aid of a minority recruitment and retention team, the district aims to encourage minority candidates to apply, recruit minorities from within the universities studying to become teachers, assist paraprofessionals in attaining teacher licensure, and use targeted advertising. 

“This is not necessarily a new goal,” Superintendent Nikki Thomas explained to school board members at a meeting Tuesday. 

In retaining a diverse workforce the district plans to “continue to support our staff academically and emotionally in order to motivate and develop relationships among staff so they will stay and grow in our school district,” according to the plan. To meet the retention goal the district plans to provide mentoring for new teachers, continue working on increasing teacher salaries and provide professional development.

The third prong of the plan is increasing the number of students who pursue careers in education, with an emphasis on students of minority races and ethnicities. Calling it a “grow your own” program, Thomas said some Arkadelphia High School students will be guided on an “education pathway” and encouraged to join clubs and programs focused on becoming future teachers. The district also wishes to partner with local universities to offer students education courses that can transfer to a university.

In school board discussion, Jeff Root said he liked the “grow your own” idea considering the focus the Arkadelphia community has on education, and could foresee the two universities embracing the concept.

Arkadelphia School Board President Blake Bell

President Blake Bell said the plan is “something we should review more than what’s obligated, something we should renew continually. I think the recruiting effort on our part as a district is mandatory or this is never going to work.”

Kenneth Harris and Gina White also spoke up, with Harris noting fostering diversity had been the district’s plan for years and White noting that several minorities were hired prior to the start of this school year.

5 replies »

  1. So, this is nothing other than Affirmative Action for our educators. Unless you can guarantee you won’t be hiring based on race rather than qualifications, this will, in fact, lower the quality of education for the future generation.

  2. I am so tired of this lately, overused word “diversity”. It is racism at its best! Picking people by color instead of credentials has never earned respect. Next we will begin touting CRT. Biden is all about diversity and look at our administration now. We have nobody running our country with our children’s safety and future in mind!

    • I don’t know what you think critical race theory is, but the core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. This is indeed an issue that needs to be taught to our children in order to overcome the issue of discrimination inbuilt in our social structure. Perhaps not in the lower grades, but certainly in High School. I do agree we need diversity, not only in government, but all aspects of our society, just not forced at the peril of qualifications.

    • “We have nobody running our country with our children’s safety and future in mind!”
      Even if the statement above was true it does not change the fact that we do have local school boards, local school administrators and (most importantly) local school teachers who dedicate their lives to our children’s safety and future. As far as our state level elected officials are concerned, most of those in office who failed to support our teachers have opponents. They are a well-defined group and they can be voted out of office in just a few weeks.


  3. I have long advocated taking the race check mark off of all applications especially government. Everyone treated the same, what a concept! I know what CRT is and it is being used to divide instead of a study tool from my observance of the states fighting it. Children don’t discrimination until adults teach it to them. This is my opinion to the article!