by Georgia Charter Schools Association
By J. Renee Gordon,
Imagine going out to buy a house and having no idea of what you are looking for. Not the number of bedrooms or baths, if it has a garage or a carport, or if it’s on a third of an acre or 20 acres. The only thing that you were definite about is that you wanted a house and how much you could pay, how long would you look, and that if you bought a house that really didn’t meet your needs, you’d start again next year.
This pretty much sums up the current methodology behind the hiring of charter school principals and teachers, here in Indiana and other mid-western states where I recruit talent to lead traditional and charter public schools.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in on a charter school board meeting. Nice group of people with a real heart for kids. Gosh, they even offered me lunch. Interestingly, they introduced their new principal. They spoke about how this school had gone a long time without a principal and how the process of finding this individual had been “long and exhaustive.”
They told me that they wanted to hire someone with “strong administrative skills.” I am not sure exactly what that means. It’s like asking someone, “How do you feel?” and they reply, “Good!” What good means to me and what good means to you are more than likely two entirely different things. Listening to this principal’s background — 29 years as a teacher, got her Masters and did 2 years as an assistant principal and a couple more as a principal, and the limited amount of time she has been a leader — I questioned how “strong” her administrative skills really were, but I guess time will tell.
Then the board mentioned that one of their 11 teachers had quit.
Given that this was the second board meeting in a row I’d attended where they announced that one of the teachers had quit, and that I was the only one who gasped, it appears that the charter world has yet to recognize that nothing will kill your organization faster than staff turnover. It costs money, it costs time, it costs credibility, it costs enrollment, and it costs kids’ academic achievement.
So what will stop the “burn and churn” of educators in charter schools? First, charters have to stop replicating the recruitment and retention efforts of traditional public school districts. Passive and antiquated methods will not find you dynamic, 21st century educators. Second, they must look at the national picture. In 2010, half of all U.S. principals and teachers became eligible to retire. Recently I asked the superintendent of a district I work with how many of his educators would retire in the next three years. I was stunned when he told me 65%. To compound the problem, nationally the number of students enrolled in the colleges of education is dropping dramatically. Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana has seen enrollment in their school of education drop from 3,900 in 2010 to just 1,300 this year. Couple that with the fact that 57% of all teachers leave the field entirely within the first five years of starting their careers; within the Teach for America corps, that number is 85%. This has all of the makings of a crisis.
Charter schools boast about innovation, so let’s innovate in the most important area critical to the success of your school — the management of human capital.
J. Renee Gordon is CEO and COD (Connector of Dots) at E Squared Education Services, Indianapolis, IN
The views and opinions expressed on CharterConfidential are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency.