News

Las Lomitas district parents want a more diverse teaching staff

Issue on upcoming Las Lomitas district board agenda

After 177 parents signed a letter asking the Las Lomitas Elementary School District to try to add some diversity to its teaching staff, the district will discuss its efforts in recruiting minorities at an April 13 school board meeting, scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in the La Entrada MUR, 2200 Sharon Road, Menlo Park.

The meeting agenda has been posted. Superintendent Lisa Cesario said she will give a report about the district's recruitment efforts for the 2016-2017 school year. The public will be given a chance to comment and offer suggestions, she said.

The parents' letter, sent in February, points out that although the district has 38 percent non-white students, it has far fewer non-white teachers.

"We would like to see the educators and administrators who inspire, inform, enlighten and advocate for our children reflect the spectrum of diversity in our classrooms and community," the letter says.

Statistics gathered by the parents from the California Department of Education show that the Las Lomitas district has only 9 percent non-white teachers, the least diverse of any neighboring district except Woodside Elementary School District, which also has only 9 percent non-white teachers.

The statistics show in the 2014-15 school year that in their middle and elementary schools, the following districts had these percentages of non-white teachers: Los Altos School District, 20 percent; Palo Alto Unified District, 19 percent; Menlo Park City School District, 19 percent; San Carlos School District, 17 percent; and Portola Valley School District, 10 percent.

San Mateo County as a whole had 26 percent non-white teachers and the state of California as a whole had 35 percent non-white teachers, the statistics show.

After the letter was sent, school board president Christy Heaton responded that the district had recently reviewed its hiring practices and the report, prepared by the district's attorney, Eugene Whitlock, a San Mateo County deputy county counsel, had concluded, "our hiring processes comply with all state and federal laws; that we are an Equal Opportunity Employer; and that our recruiting practices and procedures are exemplary."

In March, the district sent a response to the parents' letter, signed by Superintendent Cesario and all the school board members: Christy Heaton, John Earnhardt, Richard Ginn, Diane Honda and Bill Steinmetz.

The district is "actively engaged in recruiting and retaining a high-quality, diverse staff," the letter says. It lists a number of places where the district recruits teachers including colleges with teacher training programs and job fairs.

The letter says the district teaches all its interviewers about "unconscious bias to ensure that our hiring committees do not allow personal biases to prevent qualified candidates from being hired."

The letter says that its efforts "have placed Las Lomitas above surrounding school districts in the breadth and depth of our hiring practices."

Comments

33 people like this
Posted by The Best Teachers
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 7, 2016 at 8:58 am

New faculty hires should be chosen specifically for their excellent teaching ability, talent, and pedagogy. If the best teachers help diversify the faculty, then that is wonderful, but quality of teaching is the absolute MOST important criteria for hiring faculty members in any educational institution.


19 people like this
Posted by WP
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Apr 7, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Las Lomitas is a very good school district and it should continue to focus on attracting great educators and giving them the tools they need to succeed in teaching our kids. Diversity is a fine secondary goal, but it shouldn't drive recruiting or hiring. There are always different ways to try and improve on the margins, but let's not lose sight of the fact that Las Lomitas is succeeding well in its core mission. Any tinkering with the formula should be done carefully.


2 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 7, 2016 at 12:33 pm

oc course, one hired where are any of these teachers supposed to live?


15 people like this
Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Apr 7, 2016 at 1:53 pm

Diversity makes for a better education for all students, regardless of background (check out the studies and articles below for a sampling of the vast research done on this subject). Both the California and U.S. Departments of Education consistently speak to the importance of diversity in teaching teams as a matter of policy. The business world has made a direct link between diversity and profit. Higher education has long studied the benefits of diversity for college students.

Simply put, a high-quality, diverse teaching staff = a better education for all students.

The response that "we don't want to sacrifice quality for diversity" assumes organizations must lower their standards in order to hire diverse candidates. This is not true; the lack of diversity in candidate pools stems from not reaching candidates of diverse backgrounds rather than the lesser quality of their work. Once the candidate pool is sufficiently diversified (which takes ongoing, conscious effort), then of course schools should select the most qualified candidates from that pool. The lack of diverse candidates is a direct result of internal referrals and other traditional recruiting methods that tend to mirror the backgrounds of current employees.

For Las Lomitas to remain a Blue Ribbon district that attracts (in the words of WP above) "great educators" and gives "them the tools they need to succeed in teaching our kids" it needs to join the ranks of other excellent local school districts (like PAUSD and MPCSD) that have updated their strategic goals and hiring strategies with an eye on diversification of the candidate pool. For example, MPCSD states in it's strategic plan the goal to have "Recruitment & hiring practices that ensure a diverse staff" and dedicated "time, energy, and resources to promote recruitment and hiring practices that ensure a diverse staff of high quality educators". PAUSD (a much larger district with more resources) created a new staff position to focus on diversity and inclusion, with a goal to increase the diversity of its teaching team. These two top-notch districts have twice the percentage of non-white teachers as LLESD. This is not a coincidence.

MPer's comment on whether teachers with diverse backgrounds can afford to live in this area also points to a common response to the diversity conversation, which assumes that non-white teachers by definition have lower socioeconomic status than white teachers. Presumably, the district would pay the same salary to non-white and white teachers, and the white teachers are living in our community, though that is likely a challenge all Bay Area teachers face.


For information on the benefits of diversity on students:
The Century Foundation's "How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students": Web Link

Scientific American's "How Diversity Makes Us Smarter: Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working"at Web Link

The National Coalition on School Diversity's "How Non-Minority Students Also Benefit from Racially Diverse Schools" at Web Link

The Atlantic's "Why Schools Need More Teachers of Color—for White Students: Nonwhite educators can offer new and valuable perspectives for children of all backgrounds at Web Link

McKinsey&Company's "Why Diversity Matters" [in business] at Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Stats For Their Own Sake
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 7, 2016 at 2:32 pm

Here's a simple solution for Ms. Hamilton's phobia about imposed statistics.
Merge Las Lomitas with the Menlo Park School District.
Not only will you almost immediately solve the staff diversity statistical requirement she desires, you'll also save a boatload of overhead cost by eliminating non-teaching staff and,based on the studies she quotes, make everyone smarter and more creative.


6 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 7, 2016 at 4:34 pm

It's interesting that this article appears with the one about the dire housing and living costs for people being forced out of their community and a school that might suffer from that. These are the "diverse" people. But are people around here so elitist that they cannot care for the needs of the less fortunate, unless they are accomplished and in some way, serve them?

Do I sound cynical - yes. I see parcel taxes and fundraising going into the coffers of local schools so they can remain top educational institutions. That's all well and good.

But how about spreading some of that to our less fortunate neighbors(EPA, EMP, RC?) How about teaching our children about compassion, sharing once one has 'enough' and living as a whole community?

Sometimes I look around and my eyes glaze over with sameness.


11 people like this
Posted by Kris
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 7, 2016 at 6:06 pm

The top priority must be hiring the best qualified teachers. What the school is proposing is discriminatory hiring. Some years ago, my neighbor, a well qualified teacher with 3 years teaching experience, applied for a position in a Bay Area High School. The school had an excellent academic record as did my neighbor who graduated from Cal with high honors. She was disappointed not to be chosen and went online to see who had been hired. To her surprise there had been 2 openings. Both were filled with 'teachers' who had not completed their teaching credential. So what made these two better hires than my neighbor? One was African American and the other was Hispanic. My neighbor recognized the African American as a former 'teacher' at the school my neighbor wanted to leave. This teacher had worked there for 2 years, the maximum allowed for a non credentialed teacher, yet had still not obtained her credential. Folks, you draw your own conclusions as to why 2 non credentialed teachers were hired in preference to my qualified neighbor. I should add that my neighbor is white.
Is this the type of preferential hiring we want?


12 people like this
Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Apr 7, 2016 at 7:13 pm

Kris,
It does not benefit anyone to hire unqualified candidates for the sake of diversity. In fact, this practice misses the point and makes it more difficult to further the important work of diversity and inclusion. Hiring an unqualified, yet diverse candidate is a misunderstood application of a hiring best practice.

I don't think LLESD's parents would ever suggest hiring a nonwhite candidate who is not up to LLESD's high teaching standards. Rather, in order increase the diversity of our high-quality teaching team, the district must first increase the diversity of the candidate pool. This is not discriminatory and, in fact, is a proven best practice at Stanford, the California and State Departments of Ed, and most institutions of higher education.

LLESD could do more to attract high-quality teachers with diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds. Like other local districts, this starts with a website that clearly states a commitment to and the benefits of diversity (widely known by educators at every level of instruction from preschool to college), recruiting materials that speak to the importance of varied perspectives and backgrounds rather than being limited to what is mandated by EEO laws, and outreach to minority candidates through creative networking and job posting sites/publications that target ethnic/racial minorities.

This is not discriminatory, just good strategy if one believes diversity makes for a better education. Those who are not sure whether diversity benefits all children should look into the research, some of which I included in my previous post.


16 people like this
Posted by MLE
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 7, 2016 at 7:36 pm

I support the parents in their quest.
Perhaps some people do not realize that they have been shortchanged in their education and experiences by not having had teachers and neighbors from different racial and cultural backgrounds. When was the first time you yourself had a teacher of another race, if ever? Do you really think that doesn't matter? Where do these assumptions come from, that 'diverse' means less qualified and that 'highly qualified' has become code for lily-white with a few Asian-Americans? We will never make progress in having a more balanced pool of educators if children never see inspiring qualified teachers who look like them, and if we do not make an effort to recruit a more balanced group of candidates. As an example, it was wonderful for my boys to have teachers at La Entrada who were men. I think it's an important idea which will make for better student outcomes, and it will take years of consistent effort to implement.


5 people like this
Posted by Kris
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 7, 2016 at 8:46 pm

Heather. The high school, which I purposely did not name, also has parents who would never suggest hiring a non-white candidate who is not up to its high teaching standards. The high school I described is also a top ranked school in a top ranked district, yet it did succumb to pressure for diversity. For years the school's diverse student population excelled without the need for teacher diversity. It is too simple to claim that diversity of teachers improves achievement for minority students. Students benefit as much from one another as they do from teachers. Social manipulation sounds politically correct but I doubt that it is always a good idea.


9 people like this
Posted by Initial Skeptic
a resident of La Entrada School
on Apr 8, 2016 at 8:14 am

Two excerpts from a good article on this topic: "The Recruitment, Selection, Occupational Adjustment, Development and Retention of Culturally Diverse Educators: A Mandate for Inclusion in the Academic Professions"

Web Link

I think this excerpt captures the importance of cultural diversity in the school district:

"The interaction of culturally diverse teachers with mainstreamed students helps develop a toleration/acceptance of all people through the practice of constructive engagement. Constructive engagement is defined as the ability to work with all people for a specific purpose. In a global society, the absence of a representative number of minority teachers and administrators in a pluralistic society is damaging because it distorts social reality for children. Schools are intended to help children develop their fullest potential, including their potential to relate to all other human beings in a manner which is free and constructive."

This excerpt may shed some light on why the district's current recruitment practices are insufficient:

"Market and placement research indicate that the two most likely places graduates will seek employment are where a student attends college and his/her home town. Thus, homegrown plans allow districts to locally, over a period of years, attract professionals from their former student populations who chose education as a profession. Nevertheless, regardless if a district utilizes short-term or long-term strategies, low-budget or high budget activities, or high tech campaigns one fact remains the same when recruiting culturally diverse educators: in a competitive environment, school districts seeking culturally diverse educators must not only go to where they are at, but if it is a district with few culturally diverse educators present then these districts need to go out of their way so that the prospective employee will feel welcomed and supported."


16 people like this
Posted by Sir Topham Hatt
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 8, 2016 at 9:28 am

What do we mean by "diversity"? What proportion of our teachers and students are LDS? Or Evangelical Christians? Or Muslim? Shouldn't those all be considered and balanced as well? How many escaped from Eastern Europe in the 50s? How many grew up in impoverished Appalachia?

This focus on relative melanin content is a distraction from the school's mission; they should focus solely on finding and retaining the best teachers regardless of what box they choose to check on a form. Perhaps Rachel Dolezal should apply for a position.


15 people like this
Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Apr 8, 2016 at 10:23 am

Sir Topham Hat,

You make a good point. Diversity of all kinds is important. But racial and ethnic diversity is as important as religious or gender or cultural (or the many other kinds of diversity), and it is lacking at the faculty level at LLESD. Ignoring racial/ethnic diversity and pointing to the other kinds of diversity feels like an excuse to not pursue ethnic/racial diversity despite the vast evidence pointing to its benefits. This is not even a source of debate in the world of education: educators have long studied and recognized the specific benefits of having nonwhite teachers on staff.


5 people like this
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 8, 2016 at 1:31 pm

It's ironic that those same parents that so easily insist that businesses and government hire to achieve diversity in their workplaces so vehemently oppose it when it comes to their children's educators. And they do so saying "we need to hire based on qualifications."

Guess what, parents? In business, we like to hire based on qualifications, too. Why don't you remember that the next time you're protesting?


10 people like this
Posted by Kris
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 9, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Pogo--you make a good point. However a salient difference between employment in the private sector versus schools is that it is easier to evaluate a person's on the job skills than it is to measure teacher performance. Additionally, a business can more readily fire an employee and prove his or her incompetence than a school can justify firing a teacher. Schools find it difficult to fire any tenured teacher and find it almost impossible to fire a minority teacher; those attempted dismissals are invariably met with claims of racial discrimination. You may not like my observations, but I know from personal experience that they are accurate, not racist.


8 people like this
Posted by Save
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 9, 2016 at 3:48 pm

If Las Lomitas merged with Menlo Park, Could we save money by eliminating the redundancy of 2 administrations.


3 people like this
Posted by short-sweet
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 9, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Race does not equal diversity as several point out above. What you want is cultural diversity, but you're too focused on color & perception. In some ways, this homogeny is worse. In some ways, it's better than it appears.


16 people like this
Posted by Mp mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2016 at 6:55 pm

If you read the scientific studies that show up in the popular press from time to time, you'll realize that discrimination is subtle and pervasive. People tend to chose those that look like they do, sound like they do, and have names that are more familiar to them. Blind studies comparing equal resumes have shown this, as has other research.

This is one reason Silicon Valley is heavily young and male, despite qualified female or older candidates.

One need not sacrifice quality to achieve cultural diversity. One must simply aim for it.


12 people like this
Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Apr 11, 2016 at 7:18 pm

I wanted to share this research prepared by the LLESD parents for this Wednesday night's board meeting. They have also been shared with the District leadership.

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by The Best Teachers
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 11, 2016 at 9:34 pm


@Heather Hopkins

>> Simply put, a high-quality, diverse teaching staff = a better education for all students.

...except of course, when they are not particularly good teachers. It is, and has always been, all about the quality of teaching.


15 people like this
Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Apr 12, 2016 at 11:39 am

Dear "The Best Teachers,"

A HIGH-QUALITY, diverse teaching staff assumes that the teachers are all high quality. Are you saying that it's impossible to find high-quality nonwhite teachers? Since there are fewer nonwhite teachers in the nation, it may be harder. But, as Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Los Altos districts have shown, it is not impossible.

Of course, one must believe excellent teachers of color exist and make a dedicated effort to recruit them. And, one must be part of a school district that widely supports and embraces diversity in order to attract these candidates. Does this take extra effort? Yes, but the effort pays off because diversity in the teaching staff has been repeatedly proven over the last decade to improve the education of all students (academically and otherwise).


9 people like this
Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Apr 12, 2016 at 11:46 am

Kris,
Yes, it is difficult to fire teachers. But why is this a good argument against hiring diverse teachers unless you assume that the minority candidates aren't up to the job, or the group making hiring decisions are going to hire a person of color who is not as highly qualified at the other district teachers?

It doesn't help anyone when a school hires unqualified teachers of color. Of course, that is not what we're suggesting. Our district clearly knows how to recruit, screen, hire and retain the best teachers. Why should we assume they are going to make an exception to those standards once diversity enters the picture? I have more respect for them than that.


Like this comment
Posted by The Best Teachers
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 1:43 pm

@Heather Hopkins

>>Are you saying that it's impossible to find high-quality nonwhite teachers?

I am definitely NOT saying that it is impossible to find high quality non-white teachers. What I am saying, is that all teachers should be hired based on their quality of teaching and learning. If the best teachers add diversity to the faculty, then so much the better, but the hiring decision should be solely based on their quality of teaching and learning.

What you appear to be advocating is that the school district should discriminate against hiring white teachers.


13 people like this
Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Apr 13, 2016 at 2:02 pm

The Best Teachers,
It sounds like we agree that schools should only hire the best qualified candidate, regardless of race/ethnicity.

What I'm trying to get across is the importance of spending time and effort to cast a wide net for teacher candidates, so that qualified candidates multiple races/ethnicities are included in the candidate pool before a decision is made. Often, schools depend on personal references and limited job posting websites, resulting in candidates that share their cultural background.

A wider net could diversify the candidate pool. If qualified, nonwhite teachers are part of that candidate pool, then qualified nonwhite teachers have an opportunity to be chosen as the best candidate.

If quality nonwhite teachers are not part of the candidate pool reached by the school, then the school will never have the opportunity to hire qualified nonwhite teachers.


Like this comment
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 13, 2016 at 2:28 pm

My kids went through MP schools. Two teachers were known problems with another one telling a group of us that she didn't like kids! All were white. Yes, they were tenured, but this discussion is not about that and a teacher is not tenured from the get-go hiring. My point is that these were all highly qualified, in terms of experience, education and even previous years' examples. Highly qualified - by what standards?

And don't anyone be too quick to say there's no discrimination around here.

There's much more to being a "best or highly qualified" teacher. Sometimes "good enough" is better overall. And sometimes it's the quality and intuition of the person(s) hiring that is the most important aspect of this whole problem.


3 people like this
Posted by Ally
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 13, 2016 at 9:42 pm

To Beth:

Yes, let's please get the conversation started about sharing with our neighbors on the other side of 101. The elitist attitude is not healthy for our children. Why are some children in MP (Belle Haven) getting half of the resources as the children on the other side of Menlo Park? I heard someone at a MPCSD board meeting ask the same question when the board decided to put a parcel tax on the ballet. The room was silent. Do people want diversity because they want their children to "have an edge" or because they want them to truly know and learn about people from other cultures? I hope the latter.


15 people like this
Posted by Ally
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 13, 2016 at 9:44 pm

To Save: Yes, when will we consider merging two districts and save A LOT of money on two administrations. What is the hold up? Better yet, let's let Ravenswood have a piece of the pie?

When are parents going to be concerned with the morale of the teachers at LE? Diversity is important but the last few years morale has been so low amongst the teachers and it doesn't seem to be getting any better.


4 people like this
Posted by The Best Teachers
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 14, 2016 at 7:45 am

Teacher morale at La Entrada is the highest in years. The teachers are engaging with their students in ways they could not imagine even five years ago. Teachers are thinking differently about how they educate, and are searching for unique and engaging ways to increase the quality of higher-level learning. The quality of education the LLESD provides students is extraordinary, and our children will benefit greatly over the long-term.

As for combining districts, the State of California purposely designed school districts so that residents of the district had local control of their schools, allowing each District to operate based on the needs of those students and residents of the District. Small Districts have the ability to provide superior education because of their small size. Curriculum and pedagogy can be modified and updated quickly, allowing their students to engage even more deeply.


17 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 14, 2016 at 8:52 am

I think Ally is spot-on, and The Best Teachers is way off the mark. I know quite a few teachers at LE, and morale is awful due to the current administration's practices and lack of leadership skills. If the Las Lomitas district merged with MP, that would provide teachers with many more professional options than they currently have, and get rid of redundant administrative positions. Currently, for teachers at LE there's no where to run. I think that if it weren't for the high salaries paid at LE, even more teachers would be leaving. It's difficult enough to afford housing in this area on the salaries paid at LL and LE, let alone on what the nearby schools pay. What we are seeing is a rash of retirements as people who can afford to leave do so. It's very sad to watch.


4 people like this
Posted by Teachers
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 14, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Might we also consider "men" in our definition of diversity at LLESD...they are definitely under represented.


3 people like this
Posted by Matilde
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2016 at 11:12 pm

The school children will be the future workforce. Diversity already exists in the workforce. It benefits the students to a high degree, to experience being under the excellent teaching skills of a diverse pool of educators that truly meet the high standards. Kids will be aware that success can happen in any part of this world by being taught by successful educators that came from another part of this world.


4 people like this
Posted by sad
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 8, 2016 at 11:23 am

Well, you got your wish. The "Mean Girls" win again. Always did, always will. The Principal is gone. I hope you find that magical unicorn that encompasses all you want: A person of color (bi-racial preferably), maybe someone of the LBGT community or gender neutral(you can't ask, just hope for it), a stellar communicator, a PhD from Stanford (since Stanford is all that matters around here), and most important, someone who will do your bidding when you get mean!
Good Luck.


13 people like this
Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on May 8, 2016 at 1:03 pm

Heather Hopkins is a registered user.

“Sad,”
I agree that a “mean girl” culture has unfortunately surfaced in the LLESD community during this years-long conversation about diversity. It’s a terrible example to set for our girls and I hope we can find a way to move forward in a more direct, constructive way.

I admit I have found myself extremely frustrated and have said some unkind things about others in private at times. However, I believe it’s critical for the future of our community that we work to maintain a respectful dialogue about this and other issues, even if we disagree.

Let’s avoid the temptation to use anonymous judgmental and snarky comments in online forums and elsewhere to shame, humiliate and ostracize other women in our community. I hope you’ll consider reaching out directly to talk candidly with me and others about your concerns. It’s really the only way we can move forward in a positive way. My information is in the school directory.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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