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Charter School Network Launches New Teacher Recruitment Program

By Wendell Hutson | January 30, 2014 8:18am
 President Barack Obama showed students from Johnson College Prep and Principal Garland Thomas-McDavid a model of Samuel Morse’s telegraph patent in the Oval Office during their visit to the White House, Oct. 28, 2011.
President Barack Obama showed students from Johnson College Prep and Principal Garland Thomas-McDavid a model of Samuel Morse’s telegraph patent in the Oval Office during their visit to the White House, Oct. 28, 2011.
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White House/Pete Souza

ENGLEWOOD — Johnson College Prep is one of 16 high schools operated by the nonprofit Noble Network of Charter Schools that could benefit from a new teacher recruitment program set to begin in July.

Garland Thomas-McDavid, the principal at Johnson College Prep, 6350 S. Stewart Ave., said 47 percent of the school's staff, which includes 45 teachers, are minorities, while 96 percent of its 750 students are black.

“Certainly I would love to receive more minority teachers from the program especially if they are from the Englewood community,” Thomas-McDavid said. “I think this program is a win-win for everyone.”

Noble officials said the two-year Noble-Relay Teaching Residency program would target its 3,500 alumni, but the program is open to anyone with a bachelor's degree. Students would receive an unspecified stipend their first year and a full-time salary working at one of its high schools for the second year.

The emphasis is to recruit as many Noble alumni as possible.

“We already know that, after college graduation, our alumni return to their communities eager for opportunities to work with our students, classrooms and schools," said Michael Milkie, co-founder, superintendent and CEO of Noble.

A total of 40 students will be accepted into the program, which Noble officials contend is the first time in the nation that a public high school organization will target and train alumni to return to their community after college to teach at their alma mater.

Students will take courses at Relay Graduate School of Education, which is awaiting operating approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Students would earn a master’s degree in education from Relay while simultaneously working as a resident teacher at a Noble school.

The Chicago Teachers Union does not support the teaching concept of the Noble program.

“A year of taking classes two days a week while assuming full-time, school-based responsibilities is not a sustainable model,” said Jack Potter, a staff coordinator for the union. And "the intent of Nobel to hasten the teacher-induction process is part of the cheapening of educational certification programs nationwide.”

Mindy Sjoblom, a former Noble principal, will lead the residency portion as Relay’s Chicago dean.

“Relay and Noble’s partnership will create a clear pathway for Noble alumni to return to their communities, learn to teach effectively, and begin their careers influencing the next generation of students,” Sjoblom said.

Noble now has 12 alumni who are teachers at their schools, including Lamanda Silva, a third-year teacher at Muchin College Prep, 1 N. State St. 

“I come from the same neighborhood and background as my students [and] I am a living example of how, with a Noble education, they can be successful in and after college,” Silva said.

Adding more minority teachers, especially black men, at charter schools and Chicago Public Schools is "long overdue," said Harold Lucas, president and CEO of the nonprofit Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council in Bronzeville.

"Too often in the black community there is a lack of fathers and positive male role models for children to look up to," Lucas said. "Sometimes teachers are the only black role models for our children, and if none are available it leaves our children vulnerable to the streets."

According to CPS data, there were 23,290 teachers for the 2012-13 school year and 25 percent were black, 18 percent were Hispanic and 3 percent were Asian.

Noble, which also operates Gary Comer College Prep in Grand Crossing, is moving forward with plans to open a new campus on the West Side in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. It was one of seven new charter schools the Chicago Board of Education approved last week.