The teacher shortage has been in the news for years — but especially since 2020, nationwide concern has reached new levels.
But… Pennsylvania is not Florida. New York is not Texas. Every part of the country experiences the teacher shortage a little differently.
The Frontline Research & Learning Institute recently published “The Local Teacher Shortage,” a report exploring job posting and candidate application data from Frontline Recruiting & Hiring to see how school districts in various parts of the country are experiencing the teacher shortage. In this episode of Field Trip, we spoke with Laura Neier, Human Resources Director at Briarcliff Manor Union Free School District in New York, about what the data shows about hiring in the Northeast — and whether what she sees at Briarcliff Manor matches up.
In this conversation, Laura shares her perspective on:
The reasons for increased demand for teachers and why she sees fewer people entering the teaching profession
The strategies her district employs to attract and retain new teachers
Predictions for the future of hiring in K-12 education
Recruiting the 21st Century Teacher: How HR departments can position themselves for success, why diversifying recruiting efforts is critical, and 4 suggestions for those new to 21st century recruitment.
Laura Neier: My name is Laura Neier. I’m the Director of Human Resources at Briarcliff Manor Union Free School District.
Briarcliff Manor is in the middle of Westchester County, New York.
LN: We are somewhat of a tucked away hamlet with some access to public transportation. So a lot of our families and our community might commute to Manhattan for work or locally, or they might be working remote.
We sat down with Laura to get her take on data that the Frontline Research & Learning Institute recently published, that looks at how the teacher shortage is affecting various regions of the country. Things may look different in the northeast from how they look in the southwest, for example, so the report, titled “The Local Teacher Shortage,” looks at data from Frontline’s Recruiting & Hiring solution to see how demand for teachers has changed since 2019, as well as how many people were applying for teaching positions over that time.
What the report found was that in the northeast, on average across school districts, demand for teachers increased by about 25% between 2019 and 2022. At the same time, the supply of applicants dwindled by about a third. We wanted to know: is Laura seeing similar trends as she hires teachers at Briarcliff Manor? What recruiting and retention strategies is she employing? And what does she see for the future of hiring in K-12 education?
That’s coming up. From Frontline Education, this is Field Trip.
Frontline Education: Hello everyone and welcome to the Field Trip Podcast. I am Ryan Estes with Frontline Education, and this morning I’m talking with Laura Groselfinger Neier, who is the Human Resources Director at Briarcliffe Manor Union Free School District in New York.
And Laura, welcome. We are glad to have you with us today.
LN: Thank you.
FE: So I want ask you right now, does this data line up with what you were seeing at Briar Cliff Manor? And maybe we can start on the demand side. Would you say that you have had a larger number of positions to fill in 2021 and 2022 than you did in 2019?
LN: I would say that the number of positions needed have resulted mostly in retirements now with COVID, a lot of people were ready to retire, maybe sooner than later. So I think during that period of time, in 2020, 2021, 2022, we saw a lot of teachers burning out quickly.
So, if they were at retirement age, maybe they decided this was the time to get out while things were getting a little crazy and erratic and, or maybe they didn’t want to have to learn some new skillset with hybrid and remote teaching.
Some people work beyond 30 years. Some people work beyond age 55 because they love their jobs and they want to keep working. But I think the shift with the pandemic forced a lot of people, or encouraged them, to retire early, which created a much larger number of positions available than maybe they normally would be.
But I think it’s finding qualified applicants that has been the real significant thing we noticed.
FE: I’m glad that you brought that up, because when we look on the supply side, one of the things that we’ve seen in a variety of the regions is that there are simply fewer applicants. We know that fewer people are choosing to enter teacher preparation programs. So, when you look at your applicant pipeline, would you say that has been as strong in 2021 and 2022 as it was before the pandemic, or does what you’re seeing at Briarcliff Manor reflect what we’re seeing in the Northeast more generally, which is every position that we post, we’re getting fewer applicants for?
LN: Yeah, I would agree with that. And I would focus specifically on secondary education, which is usually grades seven through twelve, where you are subject specific certified. So maybe a science teacher or a math teacher, a foreign language teacher, in those positions, our numbers have dwindled tremendously as far as the number of applicants we have, where maybe historically you would have fifty to a hundred applicants. Now, we sometimes only have ten, so the number of applicants definitely decreased.
In elementary school, we still have large number of applicants. There are just more teachers that are certified for elementary teaching. But I would say the number of qualified candidates, or what we believe would be qualified, have decreased even in that area.
FE: Like all school district human resources departments, I’m sure you’ve been working like crazy to fill positions. What strategies are you employing and what have you found that works to attract applicants? And what hasn’t?
LN: It’s something we’re still trying to work on and figure out how to do that. It used to be that you could rely on the status of your district. You could rely on your location and people wanting to work here. So now we’re really trying to think about, “How do we more proactively recruit and try to entice people to want to work here, and also try to entice people of more diversity to want to work here?” We are trying to work with colleges and universities with teacher preparation programs, and we have been able to bring in some teaching assistants that have also been able to work as student teachers in a degree program, which has allowed them to get access into our classrooms and get experience. And at the same time, we’re able to bring in qualified teaching assistants who potentially could be future teachers for us.
We are trying to partner and find colleges and universities in the area, and get people exposed to who we are. We’re a small little district, so if you don’t live in this area or know about us, you wouldn’t think to apply. So, we’re in that process right now of really brainstorming.
Maybe we need to provide information for people to say, “This is what the public transportation is like, this is what the real estate market is like,” and find ways to invite potential candidates to our community so they can see what it’s like and make them feel welcome and want to apply to work here.
And then really using our network of our current staff. A lot of our employees have come from New York City public school systems. So using that network and also encouraging our staff and anybody that’s out there hiring, specifically our principals and assistant principals, to look for candidates of all qualities and encouraging them to not just rely on what we put out there as a posting, but to be proactive.
FE: We know that the better an organization is at retaining employees, the better off that you’ll be because you won’t have as many positions that you must go hire new employees to fill. What have you done at Briarcliffe Manor to increase retention?
LN: We make it a place that people want to stay by encouraging a culture of trust and respect and professionalism. I think if you walked into any of our school buildings, you would feel right away that people feel respected and valued.
We also have a variety and a plethora of professional learning opportunities that are created in-house. Our Director of Curriculum works really hard to create a large catalog for our current employees to take and grow and learn and become the better teachers and employees that they want to be. So there is a lot of opportunity for growth.
There’s incentivization for that as well. The more credits, say, that a teacher takes, the more their salary can increase. And we’re working very hard with all of our bargaining units, all of the unions, whether it be the teachers or the clerical or the facilities, and trying to find a happy medium, and just trust and respect all of the employees that work here, knowing everybody plays a role, and trying to make everybody feel like we’re treating them fairly.
FE: As you look at the next year and even further out, I’m going to ask you to shake up your magic 8-ball a little bit and make a prediction. What do you think the future of hiring in K-12 will look like?
LN: There are a few different angles to look at. One, why are people choosing to go into teaching or not? I think we have less graduates choosing education as a major than ever before. With the increase in remote job opportunities out there, and the way the workforce looks now compared to maybe how it did five years ago, it’s very different.
Graduates are now able to see that they can ask for a job that’s fully remote. They can ask for a job with, maybe, Fridays off or flexible time. Teaching, which was once a profession where the perk of it was that time value that you had, is not so relevant anymore. It’s almost more of a fixed time that you have to be here, because there are students in session compared to these other jobs out there. So I think we’re dealing with the fact that people are just not choosing this as a career as much as before.
We are trying to keep up with the market of salaries. We are based on taxes. We’re a nonprofit, so trying to compete with private sector jobs in itself is challenging. And then again, trying to figure out ways that we can recruit and hire in unique ways, trying to think outside the box of how we find people who could be interested in working in a school district that maybe normally would never have heard of us. So, figuring out how to get boots on the ground in other places, maybe colleges and universities or communities, and really recruit, not just waiting for them to come to us, but figuring out ways to sell our district on what we really are, and hope people believe in it and want to work here.
FE: Laura Groselfinger Neier is Director of Human Resources at Briarcliff Manor Union Free School District. Laura, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
LN: Thank you for inviting me.
Field Trip is a podcast from Frontline Education. For more episodes like this one, visit FrontlineEducation.com/FieldTripPodcast. To read a full copy of the report, “The Local Teacher Shortage,” from The Frontline Research and Learning Institute, visit FrontlineInstitute.com, or you can check out the show notes for a direct link.
For Frontline Education, I’m Ryan Estes. Thanks for listening and have a great day.
Ryan is a Customer Marketing Manager for the global award-winning Content Team at Frontline Education. He spends his time writing, podcasting, and talking to leaders in K-12 education.