Nearly 30 percent of the certified teachers Lynchburg City Schools hired for the 2014-15 school year are Liberty University graduates, according to a report Marie Gee, director of personnel, presented to the school board recently.
There are more than twice as many Liberty graduates as any other single school — 29 percent to the 13 percent from Lynchburg College — and hires from Liberty also outnumber all out-of-state hires combined, at 28 percent.
University of Virginia and Longwood graduates are the two other single large sources of teachers for the city — making up 6 and 5 percent of new hires, respectively — while other Virginia school graduates make up 17 percent of new teachers.
Along with its mission "to develop competent professionals with a Christian worldview," according to its website, Liberty University's School of Education is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education as well as "approved" by the Virginia Department of Education and the Association of Christian Schools International.
The school board was particularly concerned with recruiting local students, especially male or minorities, even before they get to college, however.
"I feel our recruitment needs to start here. We need to be at our high schools," Gee said. "It’s hard right now to talk kids into wanting to go into math when you see your math teachers in the limelight of the state and everything else because of the SOL scores. We’ve got to bring kids back to teaching ... If they’re not going into college to be a teacher, they’re not going to come out and they’re not going to be available for us to hire. "
Several school board members and administrators mentioned a class called Teach for Tomorrow, which allows students to gain a "student teaching" type of experience while still in high school.
Superintendent Scott Brabrand said, "We must grow our own. This class has been offered and ... there's not enough kids interested. This has got to become one of our key strategies." Brabrand suggested that the division should consider offering some kind of guarantee that students who participate in the program and obtain teaching degrees will be considered for employment with LCS.
The report also presented information broken down by experience, as well as by gender and race. Seventy-two percent of new teachers have less than five years' experience. Teachers with six to 10 years of experience make up 10 percent of new hires, 11 to 15 years of experience, 9 percent; and 16 to 20 years, 7 percent. Two percent of new hires have more than 20 years of experience.
Out of 124 certified hires, 88 are white females; 21 are white males; 8 are minority females and 7 are minority males. The difficulty of recruiting both minority and male teachers is an ongoing concern for the division, and one that school board member Thomas Webb called an "age-old problem." Webb said that in his experience, young teaching candidates are more interested in living in Northern Virginia and Chesterfield County due to lifestyle choices.
"I can tell you where they go; you know it ... because that’s where the action is,” he said. "Young people, they don’t look at Lynchburg and the surrounding areas as a great place to start."
School board member James Coleman said, "I commend the transparency, but as a member of the school board I'm just eager to work with my colleagues and find out how we can really tangibly improve this. I'm not satisfied, competitively, seeing this, nor will I accept it has to remain the same."
Coleman, who is new to the board this year, expressed interest in minority recruiting during his selection to the board.