SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — An effort to recruit more non-white teachers to a South Dakota school district took a step toward closing a longstanding classroom diversity gap.

Sioux Falls School District has hired almost 10 teachers of color this summer, increasing the total of non-white teachers in its schools to almost 70, the Argus Leader reported. The district has around 1,500 teachers and 98 percent of them are white.

White students make up less than two-thirds of enrollment in the district, which has more than 20,000 students.

The district's newest strategic plan proposed hiring an addition 13 non-white teachers by 2020.

Superintendent Brian Maher said the district may reevaluate the goal if it can achieve it ahead of schedule.

Recruiting efforts helped boost the number of hires, said Assistant Superintendent Jamie Nold. Calls have been made to universities seeking out students of color finishing their teaching degrees.

School board President Kate Parker said the goal doesn't seem too small and that she expects schools will continue to work on diversity once the goal is met.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we aimed higher," Parker said.

The ultimate goal is to have a teaching staff that better reflects the diversity of the student population, she said.

High schools have begun a program called "Grow Your Own" that aims to encourage students to consider a teaching career. The program also provides internship opportunities for those with bachelor's degrees who may consider switching into the teaching field.


Information from: Argus Leader,