School District Changes Teacher Recruiting Practices
Tuesday, October 9, 2012 • 8:26am
PATERSON, NJ – In an effort to recruit top-notch teachers, Paterson Public Schools plans to start its hiring process several months earlier.
In recent years, the district has hired new teachers between May and July, said Laurie Newell, who oversees the school system’s personnel decisions. Now the district wants to start hiring in February and March, she said.
“The only way to recruit the best teachers is to get to them before everybody else does,’’ Newell, the district’s Chief Reform and Innovations Officer, told the Board of Education at its workshop meeting October 3.
The change in the teacher hiring schedule stems from the district’s broader efforts to give principals more autonomy in putting together their staff in an effort to boost student achievement. In the past, principals at struggling city schools had blamed their failures the teachers assigned to them.
Beyond the revised hiring timeframe, Newell outlined for the board other changes being incorporated in the way the district recruits, hires and retains teachers.
For example, she said the district’s previous system for accepting applications was somewhat haphazard. Sometimes, resumes would get lost when applicants dropped them off at the security desk at the district’s offices at 90 Delaware Avenue, she said. In other instances, principals would receive only a handful of applications even though many more had been submitted for an opening.
Newell said the district is implementing a new electronic system for handling applications that’s designed eliminate past problems.
One thing Newell did not mention was the district’s plan this year to remove teachers who are deemed “ineffective” from city classrooms and to assign them for training at something being called the “Teachers Academy.” School Board President Christopher Irving asked state-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans about that after her presentation.
Evans said the initiative was “alive and well.’’ But administration officials at the board meeting did not have much information available about the program, including how many teachers have been assigned to do. Evans promised the board a report on the program at an upcoming meeting.
Irving also questioned whether the district had truly implemented its plan to allow principals to refuse to keep teachers they felt were doing a poor job.
Irving said he recently was walking through one city school when he noticed a teacher talking on a cell phone during a class. The board president said he asked the principal about the situation and said that the principal told him that an attempt to have that teacher reassigned was unsuccessful .
“I’d like to know what principal you talked to,’’ Evans said, asserting that the principal had the authority to have the teacher removed from the school.
Irving said that sometimes Evans’ directions didn’t always make their way down through the district’s administrative hierarchy.
The Teachers Academy initiative is designed to replace what previously was called “the rubber room,” or the practice of assigning some teachers to menial or make-work tasks at the district’s administrative offices.
Some teachers say the “rubber room” has been used over the years to target educators who despite being good at their jobs were unpopular with administrators.