CROMWELL — Hundreds of Connecticut teachers and administrators joined the RESC Alliance on June 20, 2019, for a day of learning, networking and recruiting as they engaged in conversations about diversifying the state’s educator workforce.
Participants explored a variety of pathways to certification, employment and leadership, and heard from leaders in the education field about managing obstacles to hiring a diverse workforce.
The free, day-long conference, “A Conversation About Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in the School Workforce,” attracted more than 250 Connecticut educators, who heard keynote addresses by James Thompson Jr., Ed.D., Bloomfield’s superintendent of schools, and Donald F. Harris Jr., chairman of Bloomfield’s board of education.
Presented by Connecticut’s RESC Alliance with funding from the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), the conference was part of a focused, statewide effort to recruit, support and retain minority teachers.
During his introduction, Thompson received a standing ovation from conference attendees, acknowledging his career-long work to transform low-performing schools, improve student performance and reduce academic achievement gaps. Thompson has earned numerous awards, including 2018 Superintendent of the Year and 2016 Man of the Year by Connecticut’s African American Affairs Commission.
In his keynote, Thompson shared stories about growing up in Hartford during the era of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement, and spoke about the importance of providing opportunities to students of color in a world filled with bias. He also emphasized the importance of hiring diverse faculty in schools across the state, for the sake of all students and communities. He said there is a critical shortage of teachers of color, statewide.
“So, what shall we do?” Thompson asked. “How shall we respond to this need for a more diverse faculty in Connecticut?”
Thompson highlighted a number of potential solutions being considered in Connecticut, including establishing mentor networks for aspiring educators, working with the state university system, recruiting from historical black colleges and universities, and creating alternative routes to certification, among other ideas.
“I believe education is the great equalizer,” he said.
During his keynote address, Harris spoke about his own decades-long work as an educator to address the achievement gap in Bloomfield schools, and his work on the state board of education, as well as his work with CREC and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE).
“The bottom line is that we are doing this for all of our children,” Harris told the group.
Breakout sessions that followed Harris and Thompson’s keynotes featured topics like “People Who Hire,” “Keys to a Successful Job Search,” Important Considerations for Aspiring Leaders” and “So, You are Thinking About a Career in Education?”