Teacher recruiting yields pool of qualified applicants

City schools ahead of past years in hiring

May 06, 1999|By Stephen Henderson | Stephen Henderson,SUN STAFF

After years of sitting by watching other school districts snap up the nation's most coveted new teachers each spring, Baltimore school officials finally leapt headfirst into the recruiting game this year -- and it's paying big dividends.

City school officials say they have 1,000 fully certified applicants for teaching positions this year, more than enough to fill anticipated vacancies.

That stands in stark contrast to the past two years' recruiting efforts -- often late-starting and disorganized -- that yielded more than 600 uncertified instructors. City schools top all Maryland districts in the number of teachers who do not have certification.

School officials credit a fundamental change in their approach with producing this year's improved recruitment numbers, which represent a major victory in the school board's fight to increase academic performance in the system.

"It's essential to student performance that we have qualified teachers," said Ed Brody, the board's point person for personnel issues. "We're delighted that we have more qualified applicants than we did last year."

Personnel director Albrie Love said school officials have attended more than 50 job fairs around the country since November, scouting for young, qualified teachers. Typically, the system had waited until July 15 -- the last date for teachers to give notice that they are leaving -- to begin serious recruitment efforts.

Love said that approach left the system with leftovers when it comes to hiring teachers.

"It's much more competitive now," Love said. "You have to be out there early." Love said one job fair at a college in Michigan last fall attracted about 375 recruiters and 450 students.

"There were almost one of us for every one of them," Love said. "Under those conditions, you have to move fast."

Love said the system is offering new incentives to applicants this year: a $1,200 relocation loan from the city, a new-teacher mentor program and courses to help noncertified teachers gain qualification.

The Abell Foundation is also working with a local developer and the school system to renovate an apartment building in Lower Charles Village to be used as affordable housing for teachers.

The system also held a reception for its student teachers last month -- just a little reminder, Love said, that they are welcome to stay and teach in Baltimore once they graduate.

"We've never had the resources before to go at it this way," Love said. "But now we do, and we're sure we can make a difference. Of course, we will continue to do more, but this is a big step in the right direction."

Principals at the system's 83 most troubled schools got first crack at the applicants' resumes yesterday, and could be offering jobs within weeks. Other principals will sift through the applications this week, and all school leaders will get a second chance in two weeks, when 600 of the applicants attend the system's job fair.

Helena Nobles-Jones, principal at Northern High School, could barely contain a smile as she sifted through the resumes yesterday. Nobles-Jones, a 25-year administrator in the Washington public schools before coming to Baltimore in the fall, said she has never had the opportunity to evaluate job applicants so early.

"Usually, it's a mad dash in August to fill positions," Nobles-Jones said. "So this is really exciting. It's almost overwhelming. It shows how much support there is for us out there."

Scott Levengood was looking for English and social studies teachers during yesterday's session. The technology coordinator at Hamilton Middle School was sitting in for his principal, who could not make it.

"This is a great clearinghouse before interviewing candidates," Levengood said. "I've found some good possibilities here."

Gerry Mansfield, principal at the newly named Roland M. Patterson Academy, had 12 slots to fill yesterday -- everything from a music teacher to a social studies instructor. His biggest concern was being able to look through as many applications as possible.

"Certification is a problem everywhere," Mansfield said. "And especially in math and science. So it's good to see that there are so many certified applicants here for us to choose from."

On the piece of paper in front of him, he had written seven applicant names, with their area of certification and their phone numbers. "We'll be calling these people soon," he said.

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