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Overcoming Unfilled Positions & Last-Minute Hiring: One District’s Story

Recruiting & Hiring

The end of the school year doesn’t mean the end of recruiting applicants: some districts report having open job opportunities throughout the summer and into the school year. Others manage to fill every vacancy, only to receive late resignations for positions that must be filled by the beginning of the school year.

These last-minute hires can be extremely stressful — and the teacher shortage doesn’t help. But with enough perseverance and the right tools, districts can keep their positions filled all year round.  Take USD 475 Geary County Schools, for example, where the military causes a lot of turnover. Hiring 100 to 130 new teachers throughout the year means that they have gained lot of experience managing last-minute job openings and filling vacancies.

Turnover & Unfilled Positions

Geary County Schools in Kansas has a problem with the teacher shortage: but it’s not just because there aren’t enough candidates. The Executive Director of Human Resources, Bridget Seemann, describes their shortage as “multi-faceted.” Part of the problem is that half of the district’s schools are on an army base, leading to uncontrollably high turnover of both students and staff.

“We tend to have lots of turnover because the military moves staff. We can’t control that. I’m about to start my 5th year and I’ve only had one board meeting where I have not hired a new teacher. I am constantly hiring because they’re constantly taking people away from me. It’s a never-ending cycle.”

She mentions that an elementary teacher on a military base might start the year with 25 students, and only one or two will stay the full year. That teacher might have 50 different children cycle through their classroom during the course of one school year. Teaching and supporting that many students is a tough task for any educator.

The other part of the problem, according to Bridget, is location. And it’s not that Junction City isn’t a nice place to live — it’s a beautiful area where the cost of living is easily affordable. But she points out that they are about two hours away from a major city, and that public education in the state is weathering a political storm.

She explains that the unfavorable political climate in the state has “made it very difficult and scary to be a teacher, and that’s spread through to a lot of young students… we’ve seen a decrease in students graduating from college with an education degree.” At recruiting fairs where students used to line up for the chance at an interview, she’s now lucky to interview any students at all.

“The kids just aren’t interested. They don’t want to do it. There’s no security, and there’s no money. And I don’t think many people go into education to get rich, but you have to support your family.” 

The hardest positions to fill in Geary County should sound familiar: speech language pathologists, math and science teachers, and language arts educators. One year, two elementary teachers were suddenly moved to another military base. Those two elementary positions stayed vacant until filled by December graduates.

Recruiting & Hiring

With the nearby army base, the district usually has a regular influx of new teachers. But to fill in the gaps, Bridget usually posts vacancies online. She also goes to every career fair in the state to find new educators, and relies on the district’s close relationships with Kansas State University students. But because of all the other hats she wears, she says that a lack of time holds her back from doing all of the recruiting she wants to do.

Hiring so many new employees during the entire year places a huge strain on her office, so she is happy to have the applicant tracking tools in Frontline Absence & Time (formerly AppliTrack Recruiting) to help organize the hiring process and quickly bring new employees into the district. Principals can review references before deciding who to interview, which puts candidates on a more equal footing. And references aren’t called multiple times if an applicant applies to five different schools. And because Bridget is always looking for more time in the day, she points out that the solution’s integration features are extremely helpful for both saving time and improving accuracy.

“That’s a single push of a button that makes it so much easier. We don’t have to worry about touching the data. Data entry is solely reliant on the employee getting it right and having the time to do it. When you’re hiring so many people, the number of mistakes can pile up really quickly.”

 

The time savings and accuracy gained from using an applicant tracking solution frees up Bridget’s time for more strategic work — and she can use data from Frontline Absence & Time to make those strategic decisions. The system allows Bridget to track who she is reaching and who she isn’t — or what’s working and what’s not. That information helps her make informed decisions about recruiting strategies, and find which groups of applicants she’s missing.

“I have the data to determine what’s working and what’s not working, so that we can look at trying to make a better recruiting strategy. Who am I getting to? Who am I not getting to? Where are they coming from? What can we do to be more successful? I have the data of applicant’s races, ages and genders. We can see which groups we aren’t hitting.”

 

Now, Bridget doesn’t have to worry about leaving positions empty while waiting on a slow hiring process. The system takes care of all the communication with applicants and helps her find the most qualified candidate for each position: a huge win for the district.

Annie GrunwellAnnie Grunwell

Annie is a writer and part of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She's passionate about learning, exploring data and sharing knowledge. Her specialties include substitute management, the teacher shortage and best practices in human capital management.