Fairfield joins program to diversify teaching staff

File photo of Fairfield Warde High School

File photo of Fairfield Warde High School

Contributed Photo / Contributed Photo

FAIRFIELD — The school district is among the newest participants for the Teacher Residency Program this upcoming year.

The program is designed to embrace a different approach to attract and retain teachers of color. An opportunity Fairfield Director of Communications Andrea Clark calls “revolutionary,”

Fairfield school officials said the Teachers Residency Program falls in line with the district’s commitment to increasing staff diversity and is also in line with the state’s commitment to increasing racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity of Connecticut’s teaching workforce.

“We are excited to be part of this program,” said Colleen Deasy, Fairfield’s executive director of personnel and legal services. “We are continually seeking ways to ensure that our teaching staff reflects the diversity of our community and appreciate how the TRP supports our efforts..”

The Teacher Residency Program was approved by the State Department of Education in May 2019. In June of the same year, the program started their first cohort with 12 teachers. Ten of them are currently second year full-time teachers.

The program expanded quickly with the number of the second cohort of teachers reaching 15. However, as the third year approaches, the organization has taken a drastic leap to 46 teachers within 25 different school districts split between four cohorts.

Some of the other districts include Milford, Westport, Darien, Hamden, Stamford and Middlebury and Southbury.

Participating districts join together to create a cohort of teacher trainees who work in the district with a mentor teacher and take classes with others in the cohort. Residents who successfully complete the certification requirements are guaranteed full-time classroom teaching positions in the second school year with their participating district

Fairfield will work with Westport, Darien and Stamford as the Cooperative Education Services cohort.

“I would say our success is pretty good,” Program Director Marlene Megros said. “We are really looking to not only diversify the teaching staff by recruiting and hiring teachers of color across the school district partners that we partner with, but also in helping retain teachers of color in our schools in Connecticut.”

“Our mission is to diversify staff, but to create inclusive environments within our schools,” she added.

Megros said districts become partners because they are interested in diversifying their own staff, as well as ensure they are giving opportunities to those that may already work in their schools, but may not be teachers yet. This includes substitutes, parents or associate directors.

“The Teacher Residency Program is a revolutionary method of recruiting, training, certifying, and retaining elementary teachers of color,” Clark said. “TRP eliminates the typical barriers to certification for teachers of color, like the high cost of graduate school tuition, standardized test requirements, and inadequate preparation for candidates.

“The idea is to prioritize minority candidates’ potential to work with diverse students, provide quality training and minimize barriers to traditional certification programs,” she add.