By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
Even with school buildings closed for the rest of the school year and students learning remotely at home, Hoke County Schools are looking toward making sure there will be enough teachers for classrooms in the fall.
The district, like others across the nation, is facing an “unprecedented challenge” in recruiting and hiring highly qualified staff for the upcoming school year, Dr. Donna Thomas said. Thomas, the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources for Hoke County Schools, and her team are trying different ways of finding and recruiting teachers. The school system experiences high teacher turnover, making replacing outgoing teachers a must ahead of the start of a new school year.
In the era of COVID-19, they’re taking a “multifaceted” approach, including social media, advertising, promoting schools and community, demonstrating the creativity of Hoke teachers and administrators and the virtual connections they’ve made. The idea is to show potential hires what they can be a part of and what the staff brings to the school system, according to Thomas.
The school system is also shifting toward virtual education career fairs to recruit candidates from other states, including states where the schools previously didn’t visit for recruiting efforts. In some cases, traveling to those states in person to attend recruitment fairs would have been too expensive, school officials explained.
The virtual career fairs include talking with potential teachers through online interviews. It’s similar to an actual face-to-face career fair where educators looking for jobs meet with interview teams from each school, Thomas wrote in a message about the activities. It’s helped the school officials be more flexible in planning and holding such meetings.
“These digital video interviews and interactions add flexibility with scheduling and decrease delays in the facilitation of the hiring process. School staff have also been able to give tours of the school and also the school community and housing options,” school officials said in a message. “By recruiting virtually, we have connected to potential teaching candidates from North Carolina universities but have also been able to interview candidates from universities across the nation.”
Reaching out to career centers of hundreds of universities across the country, and expanding the candidate pool by using digital platforms are other ways that the schools are seeking new hires.
It’s not a perfect system: patience is key, video conference calls can freeze up and there can be interruptions in the background. But at the moment, “this is our new reality,” school officials said.
“These obstacles don’t take away from a good interview or a good candidate and we have been fortunate to be able to communicate with some quality candidates.”
While the disruption could be temporary, it could also give the school system a chance to embrace some of these new methods into the future even past the COVID-19 crisis.
“Just as we promote a blended learning approach in the classroom, our future recruiting efforts will need to embrace that blended approach…ensuring that our staff, our future educators, and our community realize we really are all in this together,” school officials said in a statement.