By Jamie Wiggan
-POWER OF ONE-
Over the next three years, the Sto-Rox school district is preparing to put a cohort of local residents through teaching programs at Carlow University and hire them back into the district upon completion.
Loaded with $450,000 from two local foundations, the Power of One program is a collaborative effort between Sto-Rox and Carlow University intended to diversify the district’s teaching staff. Candidates must be Black, indigenous or people of color (BIPOC) to qualify.
“Our students need exposure within a very diverse world and very diverse community,” Superintendent Frank Dalmas said. “They need to be taught by white, Black, male, female teachers.”
The program will cover living costs and most of the tuition fees for 15 candidates to complete a Masters of Education from Carlow University. Adult learners with an associate degree or other transferable credits will also be helped to complete an undergraduate degree before progressing to the master’s program.
Dalmas said he’s hoping to enroll the first candidates by the fall, “so that we can have professional teachers working with our students who look like our students, who reflect the demographics of our students.”
While the district’s student body is nearly three-fourths Black or minority according to state records, Dalmas said the teaching staff makeup is about 90% white female.
Recognizing many area districts share a similar fate, Carlow’s education department has spent several recent years trying to determine what boundaries contribute to this trend, and offer solutions to counteract it.
“Part of our strategic plan as a department… is a real focus and emphasis on teacher diversification,” said Keely Baronak, education chair at Carlow.
The program’s title — the Power of One — reflects a body of research showing the positive impact felt by minority students when throughout their school journey they interact with at least one educator who looks like them, Baronak said.
“It’s just staggering how much of a positive difference having just one or two Black teachers throughout your K-12 education can bring,” she said.
Having found through their research the biggest obstacles for people of color advancing through education programs include technology access and finding the time to complete required practicum components, Carlow administrators built the program around these needs, too.
In addition to the financial support, the program will furnish candidates with personal technology items and will provide compensated employment opportunities within the district while they progress through their degree programs.
Funding for the program is provided through the Pittsburgh-based Grable and McElhattan foundations.