District looks at workforce diversity

The school district recently looked at its annual snapshot of workforce diversity.

Renton School Board reviewed the annual report of its Affirmative Action plan 2018 to 2023, and goals for the next five years. The purpose of the Affirmative Action plan, which is required by state law, is to increase diversity in the workforce and make sure the district offers equal employment opportunities, said Beth Porter, the district’s executive director for human resources, at the school board meeting.

Of the 13 work force categories, four showed under-utilization rates in staff for ethnic/racial minorities or women. Food service workers and bus drivers showed under-utilization of ethnic/racial minorities.

The percentage of minority or women employees at the district was compared to the demographics of the total employment pool in the area, using census data from the American Community Survey. For six of the categories, Washington state data was used, and seven categories compared to a smaller region of the Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma metropolitan statistical area.

Porter said compared to 2014, custodial staff continues to see under-utilization of women. There’s currently 71 custodians, with nine women. There is also under-utilization of women in maintenance workers, but it’s improved in the last four years, as have the other categories of under-utilization.

District spokesperson Randy Matheson said the district always has work to do to ensure its workforce looks like students and families in the area. He said they continue these efforts by physically looking at offices and classrooms to see who is in those spaces and if they are reflecting the district’s population.

This report looks at regional workforce numbers, not district-specific demographics of families, compared to employees, which one school board director asked about at the Nov. 28 board meeting. Porter said the reason they can’t compare to district demographics is because that can’t be broken down by employee category.

Porter said they will continue to emphasize recruitment efforts in all areas, and look at reaching out intentionally in the areas of under-utilization within its action plan.

The affirmative action plan goals are also developed by a group of district employees, including representatives from union bargaining units, directors and classified managers.

“How can we reach out and change the data?” Porter said was one of the questions they looked at.

The report notes that recruiting for bus drivers and food service workers is complicated by the fact that most positions are part-time or entry-level. The goals developed were based off of the under-utilized categories, including hosting job fairs and reaching out to administrators and principals to reach out to the local community when recruiting.

One of the recent examples was a bus driver specific job fair, which Porter said made a big difference in interest and who was reached. They also will be reaching out to the organization Women in Trades, which has a local branch, as a resource.

Matheson said the district is also utilizing online recruiting efforts and even visiting colleges in California and southern states to have a wider pool of candidates that include out of state.

“I think it’s important for us, just like any organization, to always work to better have your workforce reflect the population you serve,” Matheson said. “That report helps us check ourselves, check our work and let us know what we can do better.”

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