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Inside the classroom

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Mary Thurman, D-11s deputy superintendent of instruction. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Mary Thurman, D-11s deputy superintendent of instruction.

A half century ago the Brown v. Board of Education decision desegregated schools and colleges and guaranteed equality of opportunity for all ethnicities. But the number of black teachers is often small compared to the number of black students in the classroom.

"The teachers do not reflect the makeup of the student body," noted Deborah Wilson, CEO of the Urban League in Colorado Springs. "A more diverse teaching staff that reflects the student body would provide greater sensitivity to the students' varying needs, aid student retention within the system and be better able to relate to the students."

According to the 2002 data, the most recent available, African-American students compose 10.2 percent of the student body in the city's largest school district, D-11. By contrast, its faculty population is less than half that -- 5 percent.

Mary Thurman, D-11's deputy superintendent of instruction, said that while the district routinely sponsors booths at fairs in different states to target professional associations, enticing teachers of any color is a challenge.

"We encounter a number of problems in trying to attract people to Colorado Springs," Thurman said. "Most are concerned about the size of the city, they think that the [political] climate is awful and they worry about support networks.

"The booths help dispel these notions, but we also face economic difficulties as our salaries and bonuses cannot compete.

For example, Thurman noted, when she was a principal in Virginia, she was paid more than what D-11's executive administrators are paid.

D-11 also sponsors a teacher cadet program that encourages students to consider teaching as a profession and is open to juniors and seniors.

Laurie Maxson, who runs the program, says about 70 students are currently enrolled in the program, which is held at Wasson and Coronado high schools and includes classroom instruction, as well as shadowing teachers at different grade levels and central office administrators.

"We find that the ethnic mix mirrors the population of the school and we try to encourage male students as historically more females than males have been interested."

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