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A Toronto District School Board meeting.Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Ontario school boards are struggling to hire enough male and minority teachers to reflect the diversity of their student body, making it harder for young white female teachers to find jobs.

Educators and parents were shocked at a memo circulated earlier this month from the Toronto District School Board that suggested candidates should be male, from visible minorities or aboriginal to get an interview for a full-time teaching position. However, officials at other school boards said many urban boards are implementing similar policies as part of continuing efforts to diversify a work force that has been dominated by white women for decades.

"I'm only surprised that the TDSB put it in writing," said a school board official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Competition for teaching jobs is fierce as teachers' colleges continue to produce too many graduates for too few jobs. Data released on Wednesday by the Ontario College of Teachers show that more than one in three of 2011 teacher graduates could not find jobs in their profession in the 2011-12 academic year, and almost a third who are in the first year after graduating work outside teaching.

At the same time, immigration has been driving pockets of population growth in Ontario, and student bodies are becoming more diverse than ever. (Between 2006 and 2011, for example, the proportion of white students at the TDSB fell to 28 per cent from 32. The teaching force, meanwhile, is more than 70 per cent Caucasian and nearly 80 per cent female at the elementary level.)

"We would love to have our classrooms be a true reflection of our community, but reality is we don't have a lot of males nor a lot of visible minorities … who do apply," said Donne Petryshyn, human resources superintendent for the Greater Essex County District School Board in Windsor.

Bill Tucker, director of education at the Thames Valley District School Board, voiced similar concerns. "We do find that male teachers in the primary grades or teachers from different ethnic groups are under-represented in our applicants."

Teachers' colleges have launched efforts to recruit more men and members of minorities.

At the University of Windsor, students enrolling in a bachelor of education can fill out an equity consideration form. The guidelines for the form state that the university looks to "identify candidates with backgrounds and perspectives, which will diversify and enrich the teaching and learning community. Applications are encouraged from individuals from groups that are traditionally under-represented in the teaching profession."

The TDSB is attempting to recruit men and minorities for job interviews. A memo sent this month to board principals and teachers and obtained by The Globe and Mail, lists the qualities that could get a candidate an interview, including being male or from a racial minority.

"The first round of TDSB interviews will be granted to teachers candidates that meet one or more of the following criteria in addition to being an outstanding teacher: Male, racial minority, French, Music, Aboriginal," it reads.

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