School Districts Struggle to Hire Minority Teachers

From U.S. News

By MICHAEL P. BUFFER, The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens' Voice

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — Mary Tranguch — a second grade teacher at Heights Murray Elementary School in Wilkes-Barre — knows first hand how minority students can benefit from having minority teachers.

"I often get smiles from students when they see I am African American — especially new students to our school," Tranguch said. "One case in particular was when a student was called 'dark' by another peer. They were upset about it. So I had a great conversation about being colors of every shade and how each one of us is unique. And I asked them, 'Do you believe this about yourself?' And they said, 'no.' I said, 'I have brown skin, and I love it. And it makes me who I am, and just because my skin is brown, I'm made up of many things. Be proud of you and embrace yourself.' They were so happy for this encouragement."

A 2003 graduate of Coughlin High School, Tranguch attended Wilkes-Barre Area School District schools and has been a district teacher for 10 years. Wilkes-Barre Area — the largest school district in northern Luzerne County with the most racially diverse student population — has struggled to hire more minority teachers.

According to the state Department of Education, about 46 percent of the district's student population was white last year. With enrollment at 6,904, almost 19 percent of students were black and almost 28 percent were Hispanic.

Meanwhile, the district reported 506 of 513 district teachers — 98.6 percent — this year are white.

"We know we need to do a better job to have a more diverse team," Wilkes-Barre Area Superintendent Brian Costello said.