Hiring Great Teachers, Keeping Great Teachers
Converse County School District #1 prioritizes retention among its staff. Here’s how they use Frontline Recruiting & Hiring, Central, and Professional Growth to do it.
At a Glance:
- Douglas, WY
- K-12 Enrollment
Frontline Solutions Used:
- Frontline Recruiting & Hiring
- Frontline Central
- Frontline Professional Growth
Converse County School District #1 sits near the center of Wyoming — a rural district with five schools: one primary, one intermediate, one upper elementary, one middle school, and a high school. It’s an exceptional district: recently accredited through Cognia, Converse County was one of just 38 districts worldwide to receive a Mark of Distinction.
Steve Walker is the Human Resources Director at Converse County. He has spent 21 years in the school district, including 7 as a high school assistant principal and now 4 as the HR Director. Steve believes that exceptional people are the foundation of an exceptional district — and that’s where Converse County’s recruiting practices begin. The district attracts educators from all over the country, and constantly seeks to promote the district in a way that attracts outstanding talent.
Converse County also places a premium on retention. Steve said they try to keep retention rates over 90%, and currently boast a 95% retention rate for administrative staff, 93% for certified staff, and 75% for classified staff.
The district isn’t immune to the same challenges facing districts across the nation. Transportation and food service staff require extra effort to recruit, and due to fewer teachers entering the profession, teaching positions that in the past may have received 30-35 applicants per position now sometimes receive 5-15 applicants for the same ones.
That’s why Steve’s team works hard to gain a recruiting edge and strives to create a phenomenal working culture at the district. They help employees manage healthy lifestyles, support self-care initiatives, and offer needed trainings and resources.
A Few Years Ago: Loads of Logins, Piles of Paper
Prior to switching to Frontline, the hiring process at Converse County was akin to a cassette tape — that is to say, analog. Applicants would come to the district office, pick up an application, go fill it out, and bring it back.
Once candidates were hired, they faced a password management decathlon, with separate systems for managing professional development, evaluations, absences, and time tracking. Teaching is a challenging enough job already — so Steve set out to remove any added stressors he could.
“When I came into this role, a lot of our staff were frustrated with the number of products that we had, and where they had to go if they were applying for a job versus where they went for their evaluation process, where they went for reporting an absence. One of the first things I did was try to streamline all those products for our staff to make it easier for them to migrate through our system.”
Steve led the department in making a switch to Frontline.
A Better Recruiting Process
Frontline Recruiting & Hiring, paired with Frontline Central, now sits at the center of the hiring process at the district. Everything happens in Frontline, from requesting a new hire to tracking and screening applicants, to onboarding.
When a new hire is requested, the HR department creates the needed position and builds out the details in the system. This then follows a process of approvals in which the hiring manager ensures it’s accurate, and the position is then posted in places like K12JobSpot, the local newspaper, and social media. Rather than coming to the central office to flip through a pile of applications, administrators can easily keep track of applicants through Frontline.
“Our administrators can go through the process of looking at all the candidates in the pool in an efficient and effective manner and make a decision in terms of who they want to interview and then eventually select to become part of our team.”
Onboarding for Retention
When an employee is hired, their information in Frontline Recruiting & Hiring flows seamlessly into Frontline Central and begins their personnel file. Additionally, all the onboarding paperwork is handled in Frontline Central. The HR staff reaches out to a new hire the same day, welcomes them to the school, explains that they’ll receive emails from Frontline Central with instructions for how to complete the needed steps. HR also sets up time with the new employee to go through the job description, expectations, and salary, and to make sure all the right information — such as the employee’s I-9 form, W-4 form, and insurance information — gets completed and stored in Frontline Central.
All of this begins when HR completes the hiring form in Frontline Central.
“[The hiring form] goes to our business manager, it’s going to go to our superintendent, it’s going to go to my secretary. They’re going to begin to build out their salary structure, their evaluation components. And so that really is the first key to getting ready to onboard an employee. It’s much more effective than having to call or email seven different entities to make sure that they all understand that we just hired someone.”
The first year of any teacher’s career is challenging, so Steve and the HR team do everything they can to welcome new employees into the district, provide the resources and information they need, and provide access to mentors, instructional coaches, and others who can support them from day one.
“We really try to make sure that they feel comfortable reaching out to someone, whether that be me, their administrator, we have mentors in the district, we have instructional coaches. And so we have a lot of different resources for them, which we find really helps some of those retention rates as well.”
This thoughtful approach to onboarding is a differentiator for Converse County, and they’re constantly working to improve the process. Every year as new certified staff enters the district, a few months into the school year the HR department sends a survey to the new employees: How was the onboarding process for you? Did you receive all the information you needed? Do you feel equipped to do your job, not just in terms of how to follow processes, but were you also equipped with appropriate instructional strategies? And every year, they learned what went well, and what they want to improve.
Retention efforts must extend beyond onboarding, of course. People in general (and teachers in particular) are wired to learn and grow. At Converse County, professional learning is managed in Frontline Professional Growth, which enables employees to set their own professional learning plans. Every employee — from teachers to administrators to crossing guards — must set goals for professional learning.
This goal setting is aimed at increasing student achievement and asking employees to set their own goals encourages them to be more involved in their own development. The district also offers professional learning incentives; if an employee meets their professional learning goal, they receive a stipend of $500/semester. This also helps increase retention!
When people do leave the district, Steve and his team view that as an opportunity to learn as well. Every outgoing employee receives an exit packet in Frontline Central.
Part of that packet is an exit survey, with 20 questions to help determine if the district could have done anything to retain the employee. It asks employees to list their top three reasons for leaving. Was it due to salary? Relocation? Better benefits or insurance at a different job? It also asks about the employee’s relationship with their supervisor, what the employee liked most and least about their job, and whether the HR department could have done anything to ease the burden.
The goal, Steve said, is to identify patterns that need to be addressed from the district’s perspective.
Impacting Employees, Impacting Students
Using Frontline to manage and track HR processes certainly does make life easier for the HR department. With documentation in one system, it’s much simpler for Steve and his team to find the information they need.
“We have files of personnel files, records in filing cabinets. Previous employees, even some of our current employees that have been with us for a long time, still have a hard file. But we’ve migrated a lot of those, and so it’s nice to go from Frontline Recruiting & Hiring to just add them right into Frontline Central, which becomes their personnel file. Now it’s all electronic and if I need some information at my fingertips, I don’t have to go try to sort through it and figure out where it’s at.”
Beyond that, Steve knows that the work his team does is vital to the mission of the school: educating students. Bringing the right people into Converse County School District #1 isn’t secondary to their mission. It’s critical.
Today, they do that more efficiently than ever. That gives Steve more time to offer the support his teachers need. He visits every building at least once a week, talks with the staff, congratulates them, has conversations about what they need to be successful.
“It’s impacting our student learning, first and foremost, because now we’re able to get out there and hopefully recruit the right people. By getting the right people and getting a good fit for the people that we employ, they’re going to have a much better impact, a much greater impact on student learning and achievement. That’s first and foremost, getting good people, getting the right people into your system.”
About Frontline Education
Frontline Education is a leading provider of school administration software, connecting solutions for student and special programs, business operations and human capital management with powerful analytics to empower educators. Frontline partners with school systems to deliver tools, data and insights that support greater efficiency and productivity, enabling school leaders to spend more time and resources executing strategies that drive educator effectiveness, student success and district excellence.
Frontline’s broad portfolio includes solutions for proactive recruiting and hiring, absence and time management, professional growth, student information systems, special education, special programs, Medicaid reimbursement, school health management, inventory control and asset management, payroll, benefits and financial management, and analytics solutions that help district leaders tap into their data to make more informed decisions for the benefit of their students and communities. Over 10,000 clients representing millions of educators, administrators and support personnel have partnered with Frontline Education in their efforts to develop the next generation of learners.
Learn more at www.FrontlineEducation.com