Recruiting Teachers From Out of State

by Jack Crews

Recruiting teachers for a public school system isn’t getting easier. When the competition for new talent exists next door as well as the neighboring state, school districts are resorting to creative ventures to lure candidates.

 

Districts in rural areas are having a more difficult time than those in large metropolitan areas simply because of budget constraints and the lack of big-city amenities in smaller communities. Our school district in Lake Havasu, Ariz., with about 6,000 students and 500 staff members, fits into that category.

Our salary schedule is low in comparison to the rest of the state, and Arizona doesn’t rank high in relation to other states in per-pupil expenditures for public education. This complicates the challenge of recruiting professional educators.

University Connections
We decided to develop partnerships with out-of-state universities that had a strong college of education. Our first such venture involved Southern Utah University, where I met with Bruce Barker, dean of the college of education, who invited me to spend several days sitting in on teacher preparation classes and learning more about the school’s graduates.

We established an agreement to give students at Southern Utah an opportunity to serve as student teachers in Lake Havasu City, a district outside their usual geographical base. We are about six hours south of Cedar City, Utah, home of Southern Utah University.

In February 2000, a team from the school district met with students at Southern Utah University at a forum for those interested in student teaching or full-time teaching. Almost immediately, we received four student teachers for the spring semester with additional student teachers coming for the fall semester. Of the first 10 student teachers from Southern Utah, we hired six for teaching positions.

The team that met with students consisted of a school board member, middle school principal, three teachers and myself. We presented different viewpoints of the community and district. The students had an opportunity to ask questions about our community and schools.

In November 2000, we expanded our college connections. We met with the assistant dean of the college of education at Montana State University. In hopes of starting a partnership modeled after the Southern Utah project, we chose MSU because its college of education has an emphasis on special education certification. (Montana’s adverse climate also was a factor.) We sent a district team to Montana State, consisting of a board member, principal, a student teacher, the Lake Havasu parks and recreation director and me. We involved the recreation director due to his interest in employing teachers on their off-time.

Personal Contact
If you are going to recruit and retain teachers from out of state, your district first has to make sure the prospective teachers know you want them and care about them coming to your school district. Visit the universities early and begin communicating with students in the teacher training program. To raise your visibility since you’ll be competing with school districts close by, send a team to the university to meet with students and address individual questions in person.

Cindy Dell, assistant dean of the college of education at Montana State, told me the partnership between our organization is valuable on two levels. “Student teachers able to relocate to sunny Lake Havasu City from chilly Montana are given the opportunity to fulfill their clinical requirements in a setting that provides mentoring and support with the possibility of subsequent employment.”

I have been invited back to both state universities to continue the on-site recruitment program. The personal contact from a newly hired teacher accompanying the Lake Havasu team has sparked keen interest in many Southern Utah students when they discover the benefits of teaching in the Lake Havasu City resort area.

Contact with phone, fax and electronic mail is fine, but the personal touch is extremely important. Without it, recruitment is hit-or-miss. With personal contact, more can be accomplished and more tailored information provided to possible teaching candidates for your school district.

Jack Crews is assistant superintendent of personnel and community relations with the Lake Havasu Unified School District, 2200 Havasupai Blvd., Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403. E-mail: jcrews@havasu.k12.az.us