Lawrence school board to hear about efforts to recruit, retain diverse staff; data shows student body is more diverse than faculty

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Lawrence Public Schools district offices pictured in April 2021.

The Lawrence school board will soon hear from district administrators about their work to recruit and retain diverse staff and faculty.

On Monday, board members will receive the district’s annual human resources report, which will also share data related to the district’s staffing levels and the race and ethnicity breakdowns among staffing groups.

According to data included in the board’s meeting agenda, about 23% of the district’s classified employees — a category that includes paraprofessionals, custodians and other positions that aren’t licensed teachers — are nonwhite. A little more than 25% of the district’s administrative employees are nonwhite. But only about 10% of the district’s teaching faculty are nonwhite.

“We are conscious of the impact of same-race teachers on students’ growth and achievement,” district officials wrote in the report. “Our goal is to have our staff diversity mirror our students’ diversity. A more diverse teacher workforce is crucial for all students.”

According to a presentation in the meeting agenda, the district’s student body is 35% nonwhite, while the district’s overall staff is about 16% nonwhite.

Those figures might not be directly comparable, because the district has a “multi-racial” category for its student data, but not for its staff data. A little more than 11% of the district’s students are multi-racial. But in the reports, the administrators said that one area where the district plans to work on improving diversity is among its teaching faculty.

Meanwhile, the district saw a drop this year in its overall employee retention rate, with 83% of staff returning from last school year. Last year, the district retained about 89% of its staff; the year before, it retained about 87% of its staff.

The report said retaining employees during the coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge, but it did not suggest any specific cause for the drop in retention rates.


In other business, the board will consider changing the graduation requirements for the district’s 2022 senior class as the pandemic continues to affect their schooling.

The proposal would lower the required number of credits for high school students to graduate. The district’s current requirement is 23 credits; the proposal would lower it to 21 credits, which is the minimum number of credits that the state requires. The district had previously made the same change for the classes of 2020 and 2021.

The proposal is listed as part of the meeting’s consent agenda, which allows the board to approve several items in one motion without discussion.

The school board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday in the new boardroom at the district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. The meeting is open to the public, but the district may limit attendance because of the pandemic.

Those who attend will be required to wear masks. The district also encourages the public to watch the meeting on Midco channel 26 or online at youtube.com/USD497.

Those who want to speak during public comment, either in person or online, must send an email to PublicComment@usd497.org before the meeting begins at 6 p.m. Additionally, anyone who wants to share comments with board members via email may send them to schoolboard@usd497.org.


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