Improved Process of Recruiting Results in Large Candidate Pool, Record Number of New Teachers

September 20, 1999
The 1999-2000 school year is in full swing, and a record number of new teachers--1,127 of them--are in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) classrooms. Running counter to the national trend of teacher shortages, the school system has been able to select teachers from a large pool of highly qualified candidates.

Elizabeth Arons, director of the Department of Personnel Services, credits the success in hiring to good timing and a good plan. A streamlined recruitment process identified exceptional candidates early, made it convenient for them to apply, and offered open contracts early in the recruitment cycle.

Teacher recruitment is a year-round process that extends far beyond Maryland, says Arons. Personnel staff members travel to universities and job fairs around the country in search of the best candidates available.

Open contracts are another important part of the recruitment cycle. These employment contracts to fill projected openings before a list of specific assignments is available lets MCPS select excellent candidates before they are wooed by other school systems. Open contracts resulted in hiring 850 teachers this year, some as early as a year in advance of employment.

Innovation is also part of the recruitment plan. Expansion of "grow-your own-teachers" partnerships with George Washington, Johns Hopkins, and Bowie State universities and the University of Maryland resulted in about 75 new candidates this year who have trained to be teachers in MCPS schools. Many of these candidates are MCPS instructional assistants with a bachelor's degree who enrolled in evening courses at these universities to earn master's degrees in education.

In addition, employment opportunities are now announced worldwide on the MCPS web site. Applicants can submit their resumes by fax or e-mail with no other paperwork until interviewed and selected for a position. Once good candidates are identified, there is extensive follow-up with references, interviews and credential checks.

Arons says that her recruiting job was made easier this year because the Office of Financial Management and Office of School Administration were able to identify and budget for the needed number of new teachers earlier than usual. By April 12, schools had been notified of their full complement of teachers based on projected enrollments. Principals were then able to complete their master schedules earlier and thus identify their vacancies earlier.

Arons also credits the work of her staff. "Not only did personnel specialists hire aggressively to fill all vacancies," she says, "our principals claim they are among the highest quality of teachers they have ever seen."

Areas of critical need--mathematics, sciences, technology, foreign language, special education and family and consumer science--continue to be a factor in successful recruitment.

"This is where we held our breath, hoping we would be able to fully staff these positions," she says. "We don't want potential applicants, particularly in these fields, to feel we aren't interested in them. There is typically not a lot of wiggle room in staffing these disciplines."

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