By Martin Silverman

In the sixth and final installment of this series, we consider hiring staff, human resources, and staff retention issues through the lenses of the mind and the heart. Read the other articles in the series.

I love to bake. The combination of different ingredients that are in and of themselves often fairly ordinary create delicious (and waist-expanding) treats. It is almost like magic. I think of hiring staff in almost the same way. We collect a group of individuals and put them together hoping to create something magical for our schools. It is often truly a chemical reaction that produces something greater than its individual ingredients.

As we get ready to start the second half of our school year, some of us are already planning for the next school year. Hiring new teachers and staff has become increasingly complex over the past few years, and we cannot afford to wait and hope for the best. The pool of qualified applicants seems to be shrinking, and staff retention is being given increased attention. We will soon be considering staff allocations for next year, and many of us want to get a jump on hiring the best staff to serve our students and communities!

We all know that Human Resources issues are some of the most legally codified in our world of education. We are trained to understand and follow the laws regarding hiring, evaluating performance, etc. There is so much to know about these issues, and it is vital that we follow all the laws, codes, and policies in human resource management. You might think this area is one that only concerns the mind, but there is also a strong “heart” element when we consider hiring staff and Human Resources.

Leading with the mind when it comes to hiring staff is easy to understand. Considerations include:

  • Knowing and understanding the laws involved in posting positions, screening applications, interviewing, making recommendations, and ultimately hiring staff is crucial. This cannot be overstated, nor is this a place where you want to casually ignore what is required. Hiring mistakes are bad enough when the person does not meet your expectations, but they can be costly professionally if you do not follow the proper rules and procedures!
  • With all the new processes for teachers to become certified, we need to be cognizant of how certification affects the ability to perform the job. There is an increase in the number of tests required for elementary certification, for example, and we often get caught when we jump the gun and hire candidates that are not fully certified. Also, so many districts have responded to the teacher shortage by creating District of Innovation plans that create different paths to certification. Knowing who you are hiring and where they fit (certification-wise) is a confusing but necessary process of the mind.
  • Coming off a few years of non-typical school years, we need to ensure our teachers are prepared to teach the content in ways that bridge the gaps for our students. This is often a more difficult task when we consider new teachers are often not content specialists. Academic support opportunities for staff are even more vital in our schools these days!

When it comes to leading with the heart, there is a crucial connection to school culture that involves hiring and HR. People are our business, and our culture and connections are transmitted by the folks in our school communities. Consider these points:

  • Recruiting staff with a family mindset can help bring some heart to your hiring process. One example I have frequently utilized is having current staff members recruit family, friends, college roommates, club members, church members, etc. to come to our school. This has proven to be effective for both the new hire (who has a familiar colleague) and the “recruiter” (who is more likely to assist the new hire to success). I currently have four teachers on staff, two of whom are sisters, their sister-in-law, and their sister’s sister-in-law. Keeping it all in the family creates a heart-filled culture!
  • Creating a culture that values and understands that life happens outside of school makes your place the place to be. While we are not in a position to increase salaries or decrease class sizes, we can provide low-cost/free “perks” that send the message that we care about our people! One example is communicating with local businesses to provide discounts or services to staff members. I worked in a community where one of the local garages would do auto services for staff members during the school day. The staff members would leave their keys at the front desk, the business would pick up the vehicle, perform the services, and return the vehicle to school. This eliminated one more chore for staff members during their personal time and created a great bond with our community.
  • Being purposefully inclusive with our staff is an important way for us to show we respect and love our school community. When we plan events and activities for staff members, we need to understand that not everyone can (or wants to) do everything. So, if someone skips the step challenge because of their bad knees, or the Secret Santa because of their inability to devote the time or funds, please show them grace. Rather than not providing things because everyone does not participate, deliberately provide a variety of activities that allow everyone an opportunity to join in at some point. As I stated at the beginning of the article…I love to bake, so bring on a cookie exchange! But a staff volleyball team…maybe not so much!

While it may seem counterintuitive to think of HR, hiring, and staff retention as having both mind and heart elements, it is the total package of considering both areas that will hopefully make this your most effective hiring season yet!

Judson ISD principal, Martin Silverman is committed to providing the best educational experience for students and families at Salinas Elementary. His interests are in creating and nurturing school culture, providing enriching experiences for students and families, and developing future teachers and administrators. He hosts a podcast called “The Second Question,” which highlights educators and provides them a forum to discuss ideas and to honor the teachers who have influenced their lives. A longtime TEPSA member, Silverman is also part of a trio of Texas educators who host the podcast “The Texan Connection.”

TEPSA News, January/February 2023, Vol 80, No 1

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