About a month ago, we were applauding the goal of Orlando Valentin Jr., assistant principal at Hanover Elementary school, to enhance the teacher diversity in the Meriden school district. As was reported at the time, about 9% of educators in Meriden public schools are those of color, while students of color make up about 80% of the student population.
A recent hiring report to the city school board shows improvement in this regard, along with a general increase in hiring this school year. The 86 teachers hired compares to 56 educators hired in the 2020-21 school year, and 31 for the year before. That is “significantly higher,” as the report observed. Also significant is the 34% of those hired this year identifying as people of color. That was a significant increase from the 20% of 2020-21.
It’s important to note that this is all taking place during the challenging times that all school districts face thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Louis Bronk, assistant supertintendent for personnel and talent development, told the Record-Journal the increases in hiring came in spite of setbacks that included the cancellation of in-person career fairs and labor shortages affecting school districts across Connecticut.
It’s also worth mentioning that a number of the new hires are temporary positions established to deal with pandemic-related issues. Bronk said 20 to 22 two-year and three-year positions are of that type, and are being funded through American Rescue Plan Act. Lauren Mancini-Averitt, president of the Meriden Federation of Teachers union, said she hoped the district would be able to keep those educators when other positions open due to retirement and other reasons.
“It’s wonderful to see our ranks rise and it’s wonderful to have all the kids back in person,” she said.
The operation of schools is so important now, as society in general continues to work its way past the pandemic. The hiring report is welcome news.