Since I have recently gone through the interview process with Spotsylvania County Public Schools, some of the information in this paper will be related to their practices. This will be based on my experience, my interactions and discussions with their Human Resources Department, as well as information from the employee handbook. I will also use my knowledge and experience with Hanover County’s practices to help with my descriptions and insights as well.
Recruitment is the first step in obtaining personnel. Spotsylvania County’s primary method for advertising vacancies is on their school system website. They may also post them on certain tv stations, school websites, local newspapers, and/or on the Virginia Department of Education web page. Recruitment may also be conducted at university and college job fairs, as well as at the annual Spotsylvania County Schools’ Job Fair(s).
Once an applicant is aware of a vacancy and decides to apply, they will fill out an extensive online application. The application asks applicants to disclose any prior law convictions other than minor traffic violations or juvenile defenses. It also asks applicants to provide information on their work history and supply reference sources. This information is then verified by the county and used to determine if an applicant is acceptable for employment. If it is determined that they are acceptable for employment then the applicant will move to the next stage in the hiring process. If an applicant is eventually offered a position, they will also have to pass a background check.
After applications have been screened, the Human Resource Department contacts individuals to conduct interviews. For teachers, interviews are first conducted by HR staff. If the HR staff feels that these candidates are acceptable, they are sent out to interview with principals who currently have openings.
Human Resources’ staff and principals look at a variety of factors when deciding who to select for a particular position. First, they make sure that the person has the qualifications needed for the position. Second, they use the information gained from the interview questions to determine the person’s instructional knowledge and skill set. They also use the information gained from checking references to help them learn more about the applicant and their abilities. Finally, they use the interview to help them gain an understanding of the applicant’s personality and use that to determine if the person is the “best fit” for that particular school and position. Typically, the interview with the Human Resource staff is guided by a set of preplanned interview questions that have been created by the department. They are not very specific and are used with each applicant for that particular position. The principal interview is usually a little more specific with questions geared towards what the principal is looking for in a new hire. Once the interviews have been completed, the principal informs the Human Resource Department of who they recommend for the job. Human Resources typically go with the principal’s recommendation. The Human Resource department then recommends to the school board that the particular person be hired. Human Resources contacts the person to offer them the job letting them know that it is contingent on the approval of school board. The school board will vote on the recommendation at their next board meeting. The board usually approves the recommendations brought forth by their Human Resources Department.
Here are my recommendations for improvement: I am not a huge fan of job fairs. I had the opportunity to participate in Hanover’s job fair this year as an interviewer and I felt like it was a waste of time. I think they are better suited for when you are trying to fill critical shortage areas. I do not think that interviewing people to try and create a “pool” to pull from later is wise. At the job fair I attended, almost every principal and assistant principal in the county conducted interviews. That is a lot of varying personalities. Also, many who interviewed did not have any known openings at the time so they weren’t even able to look at the person as a potential candidate for their school and I don’t think that is fair to the candidate. Each principal is looking for a specific person that they would want on their staff and just because they don’t think they’d be a good fit for them doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be a good fit on someone else’s staff who actually has an opening. It is basically luck of the draw! For example, we interviewed a current student teacher working at a neighboring elementary school. My principal did not seem very impressed with her but the principal at the school where she is student teaching raved about her and said she would hire her in a heartbeat. However, since my principal didn’t see much in her during our ten minute chat, she didn’t make it to the final pool. Which leads me to my next issue with most district’s hiring processes. There are some great teachers who aren’t good in interviews and there are some not so great teachers that are smooth talkers. If I were an employer, I would want to see the person in action and/or talk to people who have seen the person in action. I want to see what they are like when they are teaching not just sitting across a table from me. I think teachers should have to give a presentation or submit a video highlighting their work. I think the online portfolios are a wonderful idea and also allow candidates to highlight their capabilities. I also think school districts should make sure that the interview questions they use aren’t too broad and actually give you a good idea about a person’s instructional background. Many people can talk the talk but I want to know if they can walk the walk! I am also a fan of panel interviews so that there are several people looking at the candidate from various viewpoints. I think it would behoove a principal to have a teacher in on another teacher’s interview because some principals have been out of the classroom way too long and might not really understand what it takes to be successful as a teacher in today’s classrooms. I also think it is strange that they two school districts I’ve interacted with don’t require that new employees submit to a drug screening. I think this should be a given in our line of work.