Iowa City Community School District experiences challenges in hiring diverse workforce

During Iowa City Community School District School Board’s equity update, the board spoke on challenges it has experienced in hiring and retaining employees of color while maintaining opportunities for growth.


Johnny Jarnagin

Iowa City Community School District School board members listen to speakers during a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.

Jack Moore, News Reporter

The Iowa City Community School District administration is working on recruiting and retaining diversity in their staff, but has hit some obstacles, a school board equity update indicated.

During the equity update Tuesday night, the board reflected on retention and diversity initiatives. The district has goals to recruit and retain diverse and culturally proficient teachers, administrators, and staff, advancing underrepresented staff. 

Board member Maka Pilcher Hayek said the district doesn’t have a lot of applicants applying for jobs who are people of color. 

“We’re just not there yet, and I think that that’s something that we’ve acknowledged as a board …  I think that’s an important thing to acknowledge that there’s a built-in challenge here that we’re trying to get around,” Pilcher Hayek said. 

It was noted in a presentation to the board that 67 percent of centrally hired elementary teachers are people of color. 

The district is part of the Grow Our Own Program for its Comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan, which is intended to recruit and retain diverse school staff through three pathways: the Student to Teacher Program, Support Staff to Teacher Program, and the Teacher to Administrator Program. 

Additionally, three Grow Your Own program participants are moving into teaching positions.

All of these initiatives aim to create a more holistic approach to diversifying the district. But with budget cuts and struggles to find applicants, the process is taking time. 

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Pilcher Hayek added that recruiting people of color to Iowa was also posing a challenge for the district.

“I just think that’s something as a board we need to be thinking about,” Pilcher Hayek said. 

Board member Charlie Eastham said the district hires diverse staff to reflect better on the student body. According to the district’s demographic data, 58.4 percent of the district’s students are white,18.7 percent are Black, 11.5 percent are Hispanic, and 6.2 percent are Asian. 

“The work we’re doing with diversifying and empowering our staff, staff members and existing staff members to work together for the benefit of all students is something that I think students see in their classrooms,” Eastham said.

Eastham also spoke on how new Iowa legislation is having an impact on students, particularly LGBTQ+ identities, when it comes to diversification.

“The work the legislature is doing to harm students is having an effect on our students … I know we will do the best we possibly can as a district at all levels to continue to protect and support all students in the district,” Eastham said.