Students demand diversity in New Haven schools

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NEW HAVEN – Students in one New Haven school have brought to light a diversity challenge that is impacting school districts nationwide.

A student protest Tuesday outside Amistad High School was part of an evolving displeasure over the lack of diversity among the school’s teachers.

“Diversity is important because the gap between minority teachers and white teachers causes the achievement gap,” said Miquell Shaw, an
Amistad High School sophomore, who added that a cultural connection in the classroom would likely lead to more student success.

Yesterday’s protest paved the way for parent and student meetings with the leaders of Amistad. The topics included how to find solutions to not just to hiring more teachers of color, but also retaining them.

Amistad High is part of the Achievement First network of five charter schools in New Haven. Across those schools, 17 percent of the teachers are black or Latino, while 98 percent of students are. But, the leadership says they are listening and acting.

“We are meeting with students to prepare for a second follow-up meeting, where they will be able to even more so go over their points and the outcomes that they would want to see,” said Claire Polcrack, the first year Principal of Amistad High School.

As with the charter schools, New Haven’s traditional public schools are recruiting outside of the box because of stiff competition for minority teachers.

“So, that’s one of the reasons why we’re going to Puerto Rico,” said Mayor Toni N. Harp. “There’s a trip going I think sometime this summer to see if there’s a way we can recruit there.”

Harp is also the president of the city’s Board of Education.

“We’ve got to make sure that we have more minorities teaching our young children in New Haven public schools,” she said.

The Achievement First charter network says it’s committed to creating a pipeline to future teachers, particularly minorities.

“We are really excited about having our first alumni coming back in teaching next year,” said Polcrack.

The current dilemma is not unique to Connecticut. Nationwide, 82 percent of teachers in American public schools are white.