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Portland Public Schools receive a new grant to help diversify its teaching force

Robbie Feinberg
Maine Public

Portland Public Schools has received a new grant to help diversify its teaching force.

Barbara Stoddard, the district's director of human resources, said only about 6% of teachers in the district are non-white, while nearly half of students identify as black, indigenous or people of color. To help balance those numbers, Stoddard said the district will use the grant to work with ed techs — many with significant educational experience in their home countries — and help them pay for coursework to earn teacher certification.

"Typically, the process can take 6 to 8 years," Stoddard said. "And we're hoping to do it in about three years, while at the same time, allowing staff to maintain their employment with us and really continuing to do the work that they love, which is teaching our students."

Julia Hazel, the district's director of BIPOC career pathways and leadership development, said she hopes the new initiative will benefit students academically, and provide more opportunities for growth for staff. A recent report highlighted the experiences of teachers of color in the district and called for more mentorship and support.

"It's so beneficial to our goals, of having this diverse workforce, that will benefit our students," Hazel said. "But it's also benefitting the people who are working for us, and showing the respect for their own development, as well."

The $175,000 grant comes from the New Schools Venture Fund. The district says the latest effort is part of a push over about five years to recruit more teachers of color, which research shows can boost student performance.

Portland also offers an adult education program to recruit new district staff who are immigrants.