Jan. 6, 2009
Faculty book focuses on recruiting, keeping top teachers
A new book by two Northwest faculty members, Dr. Frank Grispino, professor of educational leadership, and Dr. Kristina Alexander, assistant professor of educational leadership, offers guidance to school administrators and other education professionals seeking to learn more about hiring and retaining top-notch teachers and staff.
"Finding, Hiring & Keeping the Best Teachers & School Staff: Methods and Management in a Time of Shortage" draws on an extensive survey by Grispino and Alexander of school hiring practices nationwide. It is currently available through the publisher, Pro>Active Publications at www.proactivepublications.com .
The 186-page book contains a detailed outline of school hiring practices; lists do's and don'ts related to search strategies and application and selection processes; and provides information on how best to fill certified and non-certified positions.
"We looked at the common hiring practices of schools and tried to determine what kinds of things are they looking for and how they want those things organized." Grispino said.
Though a number of books examine school human resources theory, Grispino and Alexander believe that "Finding, Hiring & Keeping the Best Teachers & School Staff" offers a detailed look at how recruiting and hiring works in practice and describes management tools that can help administrators create an exceptional candidate pool.
Topics covered include teacher employment and salary trends, employment practices, finding and hiring qualified candidates, retention, selectivity, non-certified staff and a summary of future trends.
Grispino said much has changed for districts as they seek to hire new teachers in the Internet age, which makes it possible to submit and process applications and resumes electronically. However, many of the basics remain the same.
"The interviewing process, the questions they ask, the way they want the application letter organized -- all of those things are pretty much the same," he noted.
"A lot of the bigger schools will no longer accept paper applications," Alexander said. "They only do it online, which is very different than in the past."
The authors also said that many small, rural school districts face special hiring challenges because they simply can't compete with urban and suburban schools in terms of salary and benefits.
There will always be teachers for whom smaller class sizes and a small-town lifestyle trump a bigger paycheck, Alexander said, but it's an option that simply isn't available to everyone seeking a career in the classroom.
"I've had a couple of school human resources people say, 'why can't we get more Northwest students? They all go to Kansas City, or Liberty or Shawnee Mission,'" Grispino said. "Well my comment is that, if your salary schedules are $5,000 less than those schools, people still have to earn a living, and they have to support their families."
Retention is another issue that looms large for many school districts, and Grispino and Alexander say mentoring by experienced educators is the key to keeping recent graduates committed to classroom careers.
"We devote a portion of our book to that, to mentoring," Grispino said. "There are a lot of things involved -- making people feel welcome, getting them settled, creating a family atmosphere and breaking large things down into smaller pieces so they can digest it all a little easier. But it's a problem. There is a lot of attrition in teaching."
Alexander said one thing districts can do is to make applicants and new hires aware of the challenges ahead. Teachers don't just work when school is in session, and newly minted educators who see the job as 8-to-3 with weekends and summers off are in for a rude awakening.
"For a small percentage, I think it's almost a culture shock, because they are used to being on the other side of the desk," she said. "Then they flip it around and become the teacher and go, 'Whoa, this is tough.'"
Northwest education majors are fortunate, Alexander said, in that they have opportunities to observe and assist veteran teachers on the job in addition to the semester they spend student teaching.
"I think we provide an excellent range of practical experience for our undergraduates, and not all universities do that," she said.
Though "Finding, Hiring & Keeping the Best Teachers & School Staff" is meant primarily for school human resources professionals, Grispino said college students and recent graduates will find the book filled with useful information and job-hunting tips.
"Certainly someone looking to enter teaching as a profession will benefit from this book. We kept that in mind as we wrote it," he said. "If you read this book, most of the questions you would ever have about applying for a job are answered -- things like, 'Where do I find a job?' and 'What kinds of things do school districts want?'"
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