By Brittany Hughes - Danville Register & Bee - Virginia, USA

The question of whether more male teachers in city schools would help reduce disciplinary problems was raised at Friday’s Danville School Board work session, where board member Philip Campbell addressed the significant gap between male and female teachers.

According to Juliet Jennings, assistant superintendent for human resources, Danville Public Schools currently employs 515 teachers.

Of those, only 91 are male — meaning only about 1 in 6 city teachers are men.

Campbell suggested the school system should look into why so many more women are hired than men, and if placing more males in the schools may help lessen disciplinary problems among students.

“It speaks volumes to have men there,” he said. “I think we may see disciplinary situations go down if we had more men.”

Campbell added that students may respond differently to a male teacher than a female “just by seeing a man.”

Superintendent Edward Newsome agreed there was a significant gap between male and female teachers in the school division, but said he did not necessarily agree placing more men in schools was the fix-all for behavioral issues.

“I hear what you’re saying and I agree, but with a caveat,” he told Campbell, explaining that a student’s response to a teacher “depends on the effectiveness of the teacher” more than it does on gender.

Newsome said the gender gap between male and female teachers — especially at the elementary level — is a national problem, and isn’t specific to Danville Public Schools.

Faculty retention is also a problem, Newsome added.

Board member Terri Hall suggested the school system should focus on retention as well as hiring.

“Maybe we should look at what can we do to improve the retention and morale of our current teachers so we don’t lose the great ones we already have,” she asked, adding steps should be taken to “make teachers feel more appreciated.”

Jennings explained Danville Public Schools is working to recruit teachers to the school system, employing everything from job fairs to word-of-mouth to inspire new teachers to relocate to the city. But recent problems in the school division, including serious financial issues and the consolidation of multiple schools across the city, had thrown a wrench into the division’s ability to recruit the best and brightest.

“[Teachers] don’t always want to go to a school where there’s a need,” Jennings told board members Friday. “If they’re scared, they can’t help us.”

Jennings also said the Internet has contributed to recruiting difficulties.

“Anything you ever wanted to know about Danville Public Schools, good or bad, is out there,” she added.

To help offset these obstacles, both Jennings and Newsome said “re-branding” the school system’s recruitment materials is a first step to filling much-needed vacancies within the district.

“We’re selling our future,” Jennings explained, saying the human resources department was “focusing on the successes” of the city schools.

“We believe we can sell our vision, and we believe we have a compelling vision for our school system,” said Newsome.