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More than 80 percent of public school teachers in the U.S. are white, and a WXXI News investigation has found that the disparity is much more severe in the Rochester and Finger Lakes regions. Degrees of Diversity takes an in-depth look at diversity among local teaching staffs.Let us know what you think on Twitter using #WXXINews.You can also comment to us on Facebook.Check our map to see how diverse your district isClick here to see all the data from Monroe County, Erie County, Onondaga County, the Finger Lakes region, and regional colleges

Connections Live at The Little: Degrees of Diversity

Randy Gorbman

At the Little Theatre in Rochester, teachers, superintendents, parents and school board members discussed ways to bring more diversity to local teaching staffs.

On Friday, WXXI hosted a community discussion to wrap up our week of reporting on teacher diversity. Evan Dawson reports.

Brandon White is a teacher in the Rochester City School District –

He said that for too many students of color, there are not enough mentors who look like them, and school is not a positive experience.

“There was one thing that was said about getting more RCSD kids to be RCSD teachers, and why they wouldn’t want to be, and I returned with the question, ‘Why would the convict want to be the correctional officer?’”

Simeon Bannister is a parent and board member in the Rush-Henrietta district; he said that teacher diversity will only get addressed when the community views it as a problem for everyone.

“If all of a sudden, graduation rates dipped below 50 percent across the county, particularly outside the city, would we have a crisis in Rochester? Absolutely. The real problem here is not just for kids of color. A bigger problem is that all of us are suffering because we don’t have diversity.”

Shaun Nelms offered an optimistic note to close the conversation –

He’s the superintendent of East upper and lower schools in Rochester. Nelms said if districts commit to hiring candidates of color, it’s within their grasp to do it.

“There are tons of fraternities and sororities and organizations throughout the community that are just waiting to be invited. And when I hear superintendents say, ‘There’s no candidate pool,’ what I hear them saying is, ‘I don’t know how to access people within those groups.’ And so there are educators out there. There are black teachers who unemployed right now in Rochester.”

All panelists agreed that awareness is step one – action is harder, and is the real measure of progress. 

Listen to the complete Connections show from The Little:

Hour 1:


Hour 2:


Find out how diverse your district is on our interactive map

Click here to see all the data from Monroe County, Erie County, Onondaga County, the Finger Lakes region, and regional colleges.

Degrees of Diversity is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Listen to all the stories in a podcast or on our series page.

Connections Degrees of DiversityDegrees of Diversity 2000
Evan Dawson is the host of "Connections with Evan Dawson." He joined WXXI in January 2014 after working at 13WHAM-TV, where he served as morning news anchor. He was hired as a reporter for 13WHAM-TV in 2003 before being promoted to anchor in 2007.