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Boston focuses on nurturing female minority teachers

Aja Crockett is a special education teacher at the Joseph P. Tynan Elementary School in South Boston.Lane Turner/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

As Boston struggles to recruit, retain, and promote minority teachers, the school district has launched an effort to nurture female minority educators.

The city has partnered with the University of Massachusetts Boston to create the accredited Women Educators of Color Executive Coaching Program, which will provide mentors and peer support for midcareer educators while allowing them to research challenging issues in education and seek solutions.

The program has accepted 20 women with three years’ experience or more in the school district, mostly teachers but also some administrators from schools and the central office. The participants will receive support from six executive coaches — all retired Boston Public Schools educators — led by Jane Skelton.

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“Part of this work is really helping them focus on change and how they can initiate change in their schools,” Skelton said.

“Our relationship with them is one to coach them, not just in preparing them for leadership but . . . building confidence, helping them see themselves as part of the dialogue of this district, that they can make changes.”

The 15-month program is an outgrowth of the Male Educators of Color Executive Coaching Program, launched in 2014 and now working with its second cohort of teachers and administrators, officials said.

Aja Crocket, a special education teacher at Joseph P. Tynan Elementary School, who is among the first group of educators in the program, said it already has her thinking differently about her future.

“My eyes are just open to more possibilities and more space for me to be able to be a leader in the district,” Crocket said.

The School Department has long struggled to diversify its workforce. It falls short of a 30-year-old federal mandate requiring that 25 percent of teachers across the district be black and another 10 percent be of other minority groups.

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In 2010, 23 percent of teachers were black, according to School Department data, while 10 percent were Hispanic and 5 percent were Asian. By this year, as the total number of teachers grew by about 350, black representation shrank to just 21 percent of teachers, while the percentages of Hispanic teachers remained unchanged and that of Asian teachers increased by one percentage point.

Kim M. Janey, senior project director for Massachusetts Advocates for Children, said the new program is a positive step, but there is other work that the school system must do.

“I commend the district for investing in leadership development opportunities for women of color,” Janey said, “but if the goal is retention, then it’s also important for BPS to improve school culture, because too many educators of color report experiencing hostile work environments where their voices are not heard, where their contributions are not valued.”

The program is part of efforts aimed at recruiting young people of color from the city to become teachers and to support them across the spans of their careers, said Ceronne Daly, the School Department’s director for diversity programs.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh commended the district’s efforts.

“We must continue to ensure that diversity is our main goal, structurally, within the hiring and recruitment process,” Walsh said in a statement.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.