Katara Simmons/News-Sun The racial diversity in Highlands County schools has changed in the past decade as more minorities, particularly blacks and Hispanics, filter into the area.
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published: Sunday, September 08, 2013
Minority students becoming the majority in county
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
Brown and olive, beige and white are just a few of the shades of students you will see when you enter a classroom in Highlands County. But just how many of those shades are there these days?
Enrollment numbers for local schools have grown steadily over the past decade. This year alone, the county has nearly 12,000 kids in elementary and secondary schools.
Over the years, the student population numbers haven't changed nearly as drastically as the number of racial groups and the amount of students identifying with those groups.
The school board's Management Information Systems has six separate race categories they use to classify students: White, African American (or black), Hispanic, Asian, American Indian and multi-racial.
Minorities have made their way both into and out of the county for a number of reasons. Migrant farm workers account for the high population of Hispanics in both Lake Placid and Avon Park. From an African American standpoint, many families have gradually left the county to take up residence in more urban areas of the state or to live closer to family members in other regions.
Currently, the two largest minority groups (black and Hispanic) are actually the majority when the two races are grouped together.
In the county's 10 elementary schools, there are a total of 1,945 Hispanic students and 1,008 black students. That combined group of 2,953 students is nearly 400 more than the total number of white students.
In the middle schools, white students outnumber black and Hispanic students by less than 100. The high school minority student population gap is also closing, trailing less than 200 students behind the majority group.
Overall, however, the two largest minority groups' population this year is greater than the white student population by 93 students. Add in the three remaining minority groups (Asian, American Indian and multi-racial) and the long-time majority noticeably becomes the smallest student group.
Every school in the county that was open in 2006 (a racial breakdown of student population prior to that year was not available) has less white students in its classrooms this year than it did seven years ago, a drop of almost 400 total.
The number of Hispanic students grew by nearly 200 in that time frame, while the number of black students fell from 649 to 571 and multi-racial students went from 49 to 107.
One of the more diverse schools happens to be Sun 'N Lake Elementary, where some classrooms are more populated by Asian or Indian students than whites and blacks.
"It's a very diverse school," said Assistant Principal Issac Durrance. "We have a large population of Asian and Hispanic students here. A lot of the doctors' children, who are Indian and other nationalities, are also present a great deal here. We have a very unique school."
Woodlawn Elementary is nearly even on its minority and white population; the school instructs 259 white students and total of 254 blacks and Hispanics.
Avon Park schools traditionally have the most black and Hispanic student populations.
As of this year, all three of the Avon Park elementary schools, Avon Park Middle and Avon Park High are filled with more black and Hispanic students than white.
For the 2013-2014 school year, the Human Resources, Recruitment and Professional Development (HRRPD) department made sure to make efforts to reach out to minority teachers to accommodate the growing minority student population in Highlands County.
HRRPD Director Vivann Waldron has made every effort to hire the most qualified minority teachers to instruct the continually changing student base in Highlands County.
"It is hard to get minority instructors in this area," said Waldron.
"It's just a rural area. There isn't a whole lot for a young, minority teacher to do here outside of water recreation, fishing and things like that. But it is important to have these minority groups represented. It helps the students to identify with a teacher that looks like them."
Waldron reported that this year was the largest recruitment of instructors of ethnic backgrounds the district has had in several years.
You all should be ashamed... (by: Can't say because some idiot might shoot me. - 9/10/2013)
What a bunch of hate filled rants... Guess what white people you are going to be the minority soon, and you better get used to it. Yes this is news and why shouldn't the kids get to see people of their own color represented in positions of success, not just the janitor or the class aide?
Ummmm how bout Teacher Assistances (by: DREAD - 9/10/2013)
Great News (by: open minded NYer - 9/10/2013)
Our daughter has what they call "olive " skin, because she is Italian, but it shouldnt matter- Our focus is the education for the children whether they be gay or lesbian- when are people going to stop wearing blinders. I notice everyone focuses on the color and the name- This is good new for the community- could mean possibly more families moving in, like the newspaper reported to be closer to other family members, poplulating the county- Im happy to hear about so much diversity in the classroom- I think this is important for the children.
(by: realist - 9/10/2013)
Diversity....love it or hate it....may as well accept it....
Wow, Blindman (by: ... - 9/10/2013)
Thanks for missing the entire point because you're stuck opposing one aspect of society unrelated to this article. At least the name you chose is spot on.
REALLY!! (by: concerned citizen of the youth in highlands county - 9/9/2013)
why is this important news about race. why are you even counting how many kids of different races are there. what should be important news, is what can we do to help these kids stay out of jail and help them get a job. giving them something to do is more important than how many blacks and latinos we have in schools now.
colors (by: Edward A. Murcko - 9/9/2013)
when I was in the military this is how you would describe an individual, it KEEPS races out of the game. we would say dark green Marine, light green Marine, etc.. I would like to see more descriptions like this.
Well Said (by: Sam the Black man - 9/9/2013)
Well Said Blindman....And here comes the crime.
Olive? (by: ... - 9/9/2013)
We have olive people? Did they come from mars?
Philosophy (by: Blindman~ - 9/8/2013)
Don't forget to make every effort to hire the most qualified gay and lesbian teachers to strengthen the base of today's school system. Not only will you Democrats increase your political power, it will help some of the students "identity" and further your cause.
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