Teachers of Color Network protests lack of diversity in Berkeley schools

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Yiran Chen/Staff

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Signs that read, “We support teachers of color in BUSD,” stood out in the crowd of teachers at the Wednesday evening Berkeley Unified School District board meeting.

About 50 members of the Teachers of Color Network gathered at the meeting to protest the lack of diversity in the school system.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several members of the Teachers of Color Network, an organization that aims to recruit and retain teachers of color, urged BUSD to begin the hiring process earlier in order to increase the number of teachers of color in the district.

According to Amanda Cardno, an educational specialist at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and a member of the Teachers of Color Network, Berkeley begins its hiring process around June and July, which is later than other school districts in the area, and some individuals, financially, cannot wait that long.

Gloria Muñoz-Hughes, a Teachers of Color Network co-facilitator, said during public comment that teachers of color are leaving the district because of isolation and lack of support from administration and parents. According to Muñoz-Hughes, several teachers of color feel that their every move is questioned.

“No teacher should feel like they are on trial for simply doing their job,” Muñoz-Hughes said during public comment.

BUSD student director Uma Nagarajan-Swenson noted during the meeting that in her four years attending Berkeley High School, she had approximately 27 teachers, seven of whom were teachers of color.

“At a school which according to the 2014-15 statistics is only 38 percent white students and the rest are all students of color, that’s kind of terrifying and shocking and I really hope that … we all can take steps to make this better,” Nagarajan-Swenson said.

According to Cardno, while there is a large makeup of students of different races, this is not reflected in the teaching force. Cardno spoke during public comment about the importance of hiring and retaining teachers of color, because the staff should represent the students they serve.

“I have two children in Berkeley and I am a teacher of color,” Cardno said. “When I was going to school, it was the teachers of color who made a difference in my life. Knowing someone in your room looks like you makes a big difference.”

Ella Colbert covers schools and communities. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @colbert_ella.