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Jeffco Public Schools benefiting from pilot program

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By Deborah Swearingen

Six months after initiating the pilot program, Jeffco Public Schools appears to be having success in its new initiative that aims to implement school-specific hiring criteria to attract, hire and retain new teachers.

Among other things, the pilot program shows turnover is on a continued downward trend in Jeffco Public Schools and compensation measures are changing for the positive. Furthermore, the district made 34 school-based hires with school-specific criteria in the pilot; and a variety of changes, including a candidate self-rating system, reconfigured school-specific job postings and school-specific criteria, are in the works and should be available for hiring uses in February when staffing season kicks off.

In the first phase of the program, Jeffco Public Schools completed a variety of steps, including:

• Developed and tested school criteria used to drive hiring decisions.

• Used results and modified approach for the next staffing season.

• Developed a new system for candidate ratings on school-specific criteria.

• Adjusted job posting for a more descriptive presentation of school and position.

• Completed start-of-school data analysis of hired employees and compensation comparisons.

The goal of the pilot program is to hire candidates who best fit a particular school and job, ultimately improving compensation rates and the number of “highly-matched applicants.”

“We are trying to change the shape of teachers in the organization,” said David Bell, chief human resources officer with Jeffco Public Schools, in a board meeting last Thursday.

However, that is certainly not to say that everything is perfect. Jeffco remains nearly 9 percent under the comparable market average for compensation in metro school districts. And in ranking the largest school districts in Colorado, Jeffco sits at fifth out of seven for compensation with an average teacher pay of $57,154 — more than $18,000 under the average pay in Boulder Valley School District, which tops the list.

Additionally, there was some question about whether this program would be limiting for new teachers as it appears to encourage those with experience. Stephanie Cavallaro, principal at Stony Creek Elementary in South Jeffco, said there were teachers with varying experience levels that applied through the pilot, though.

“So it does acknowledge that a brand new teacher will not have classroom management and much pedagogy, really as far as through experience, which is where you’ll really learn,” said board member Ali Lasell, to which Cavallaro agreed and noted they also take into account a potential employee’s student teaching experience.

For Cavallaro, participation in the pilot program was “one of those no brainers.”

“I do feel like hiring … is one of the most, if not the most, important job we do each year in order to best serve our students and families,” Cavallaro said. “In fact, I feel like we’ve been doing this in an informal capacity already, but let’s do it with intention and make sure we’re on the same page and looking for the same things.”

Cavallaro worked with Stony Creek’s accountability team to help create her school’s criteria when looking to hire. Namely, the school wanted to focus on those with experience in the 1:1 Chromebook initiative, restorative practices, authentic tasks and PLC, or professional learning community, work.

“They have to embrace teaching through technology. They have to embrace restorative practices. There’s really a philosophical foundation to all those things. We talked about what we’d listen for and then we had a scoring system,” she said.

Ultimately, the school hired five teachers within the pilot program. Cavallaro said she’d keep all five if given the chance.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.