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Teacher shortage inviting creative solutions: Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary joins other districts in offering professional perks to draw and keep educators
March 13, 2017, 05:00 AM By Austin Walsh Daily

Promoting the bond between burgeoning and established educators, offering signing bonuses and beefing up college recruitment are among the efforts pursued by Belmont-Redwood Shores school officials to fill classrooms with top teaching talent.

These are the sorts of initiatives administrators and elected officials feel compelled to pursue while attempting to move the Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District to the front of the class for recruiting and retaining quality educators.

Trustees last week discussed collecting the variety of efforts under the umbrella of a single policy designed to make their district more distinct and desirable amidst the ongoing teaching shortage.

Meanwhile, the district’s Human Resources Director Genevieve Randolph said she believes the pillars of the push are already paying dividends, as the school system has not faced the same rate of turnover as others locally.

“I think every district has a plan with this kind of idea,” she said. “What’s unique with Belmont is that we are listening to our staff and working more with our staff on the planning and development of it.”

Such collaboration led to an emphasis on programs designed to draw in young talent and then expose them to experienced teachers who can mentor and help hone their skills in the classroom while also building a bond in the workforce, said Randolph.

Superintendent Michael Milliken said he believed the efforts are aligned with addressing the district’s primary concerns.

“The quality of our educational program is dependent upon the quality of our teachers and instructional staff. Given the acute regional shortage of qualified educators, our board and district leadership team have made it a priority to attract and retain well-qualified, effective and diverse educators to teach our students,” he said in an email.

The variety of innovative initiatives considered by the district are on par with other unconventional efforts adopted by others locally feeling the pinch of the teaching shortage.

Some school districts have considered building teacher workforce housing developments to offer affordable living opportunities for employees struggling to compete in the local real estate market.

More recently, Notre Dame de Namur University and Cañada College announced plans to use state grant money for launching a four-year credential program for local students who would like to teach biology in middle or high school. The program, expected to start next year, is designed to make the path quicker and cheaper for those seeking a credential in one of the fields most affected by the teaching shortage.

Sue Wieser, associate superintendent of Human Resources at the San Mateo County Office of Education, lauded her team landing grant funding available to those in school support positions who would like to enroll in a teaching credential program as another creative program offered locally.

“We’re especially excited about funding we just received from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to help build a pathway for classified employees to get teaching credentials,” she said in an email. “This will help us grow our own teachers, who are already familiar with our county and the specific needs of our students.”

Wieser also identified offering stipends for those in competitive positions and amending salary schedules to accept more years as efforts some local districts have taken on to attract teachers.

Randolph said in her district officials plan to prioritize promoting job openings online, as well establishing a presence in the career centers in local colleges such as Notre Dame de Namur, San Francisco State and San Jose State universities to enhance the visibility of district work opportunities.

For the top candidates in the most competitive teaching fields such as math, science or special education, officials plan to offer $5,000 signing bonuses as a means of making the district’s deal a little sweeter than other local competition.

Those who come to the district with children will also enjoy an enrollment priority for their student, which Randolph identified as a successful pilot program launched last year.

Once a new teacher is hired, she said the focus then shifts to retention as officials search for professional development opportunities to offer as a means of building a teacher’s skill set.

The top tool for enticing engaged educators is offering more time to collaborate with colleagues who can share their expertise in specialized fields, said Randolph.

“Time. Time to learn, time to collaborate, time to develop as a teacher,” said Randolph, identifying the priority officials have heard from district staff when discussing opportunities for improvement.

In response, officials are focused on assuring teachers have ample chances to meet outside the classroom and discuss their craft with others also interested in sharing ideas. Inviting in experts to lead seminars focusing on improving specialized skills are a part of the district’s vision as well.

Randolph said these sessions offer the added bonus of building the bonds between colleagues and allowing district staff to feel more unified as a team.

“We are improving our professional development and gearing that toward staff interest,” she said.

With the recognition that the education a school system can offer students is only as good as its teachers, Randolph said she believes officials should seek programs making the district a uniquely welcoming environment for top talent.

“What we realize at the Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District is that the quality of our program is dependent on the people in the classroom,” she said. “So we want to be able to collaborate and offer professional development and give support from the district.”

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105



Tags: district, school, randolph, officials, teaching, program,

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