Boosting diversity at Thomas Jefferson High

Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 5:51 PM

Regarding the Oct. 31 front-page article "One thing elite N.Va. school doesn't do well: Diversity":

As a faculty member at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology for 12 years, I've watched the ebb and flow of efforts to combat the complex problem called diversity recruiting. Most of what reporter Kevin Sieff said in the article is accurate. Unfortunately, he did not include the latest efforts TJ and the county have undertaken to address the shrinking number of blacks and Hispanics on our campus.

Starting last year, a group of teachers, counselors and administrators formed the Diversity and Engagement Curriculum Team. In year one, we focused on two nearby Fairfax public school clusters that had the lowest number of students coming to TJ. These areas are also home to vibrant black and Hispanic populations. Our agenda included a day for middle school teachers and administrators to visit our campus; an afternoon when more than 100 middle school students watched our freshman robot competition; a day when counselors from all over the county were introduced to our programs; and an all-school effort to support the well-established Techstravaganza science fair aimed at elementary and middle school students from around the region.

Our last goal was to enable hot lunch-eligible middle schoolers to participate in our Summer Technology Institute. We covered the registration fees for 200 students, many of them from our target group. Last, Fairfax County authorized the creation of a position in the TJ admissions office dedicated to this diversity effort.

We are in year two now, with plans to reach out to the elementary schools in Clusters III and IV, working with academic coaches, math and science team leaders, administrators and counselors. Yes, we understand we have a difficult road ahead, but we are not sitting by and bemoaning our failures.

Jennifer Seavey, Great Falls

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