Meet Shauné Ferguson, a recruiter in talent acquisition for Pinellas County Schools. She specifically focuses on the recruitment and retention of Black teachers within the district.
BY HILLARY VAN DYKE, Contributor
ST. PETERSBURG — Local equity leader Shauné Ferguson is in talent acquisition at Pinellas County Schools and specializes in minority hiring; she’s the vice president of the Pinellas Alliance of Black School Educators, an ambassador for the Green Book of Tampa Bay, and one of the organizers revitalizing the Pinellas African American Heritage Celebration.
I sat down with her to learn more about her work in the community.
TWC: What do you do, and why does it matter?
Ferguson: I am a recruiter in talent acquisition with Pinellas County Schools. I recruit and focus on retention of instructional staff for the school district. I specifically focus on the recruitment and retention of Black teachers within the school district. It’s important because part of the district’s strategic plan is Bridging the Gap plan that focuses on minority hiring.
Right now, in Pinellas County Schools, we have about 18 percent Black students and only nine percent Black teachers. Overall, across the nation, Black teachers make up about 10 percent of the teaching workforce.
So, it’s important because it’s important for students within Pinellas County Schools to have teachers that look like them. That representation in the classroom matters, that representation in the curriculum matters to those students, and it clearly leads to more positive outcomes.
TWC: Yes, and there are even studies that show that having a Black teacher in the building, even if they never actually had that teacher, has lots of positive impacts on their trajectory.
TWC: Of the work you are doing, what work are you most proud of?
Ferguson: I would like to pick just one thing, but there are actually two things. The first is the work that I’m doing with the Pinellas Alliance of Black School Educators. It’s a group for teachers throughout the district, a shared space, and a networking group. It’s an area for us to all come together and just really have those moments where we may not be as comfortable sharing certain things with teachers that are in our building.
I love that we get to get together and have a good time. There’s mentoring, and we do a book study. There are scholarships that we offer to students within Pinellas County Schools. So, I think just having that space for specifically Black teachers in Pinellas County Schools is really important.
The other thing that I really love doing is going out to the high school and talking to the students about possible careers in education. I always start out by telling them, like obviously, I want you to be a teacher, but that’s not the only possibility. Just talking to them about what that career could look like for them because most of them think that they would never want to be a teacher, that teaching is never going to be right for them because of the nature of education right now.
But what I tell them is we need students like them; we need young people in education if we’re ever going to make an impact. So, the things that you don’t like about school right now, if you become a teacher, you can be here to help, you know, being that person for other students, and just talking to them about like career planning.
A lot of them might not want to go to a four-year college, but I talked to them about going to Pinellas Technical College or St. Petersburg College and what kind of positions they could have within the district just by doing things like that. So, just that career planning and college outlook with the high school students. It’s fun, and I really like it.
TWC: But of course, secretly, the hope is they choose teaching.
Ferguson: Obviously! That’s the main goal.
TWC: So, it’s like talent acquisition but planting seeds that maybe you don’t get to see come to fruition.
Ferguson: Exactly, exactly. And I talked to some of them after, and I’ve talked to parents after my presentation, and the kids go home, and the parents are like, “Oh my God, she couldn’t be talking about it. I think she really wants to do it.” So just kind of planting that seed, so just even thinking of it as an option. And then, you know, maybe it is.
TWC: It sounds like a lot of good work and a lot of hard work, but I think the most important question is how do you practice self-care?
Ferguson: I like doing a lot of things with my family. I have two kids and a husband. I love being outdoors with them. I love being outdoors with a group called Outdoor Afro. I love going on hikes and kayaking and just doing all kinds of fun things in nature that, again, I never really thought of as a possibility for myself.