For several years, William Singleton, superintendent of South Carolina's rural Jasper County School District, has traveled to job fairs in other states to recruit teachers, particularly in math, science and special education. Armed with $2,500 signing bonuses to sweeten the pot, Singleton recently joined more than 250 other recruiters in New York towns with large teacher education pools, including Buffalo and Rochester. Similarly, administrators in Montgomery County, Md., sent representatives to job fairs in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Ohio, and this year educators in Fairfax County, Va., made 38 recruiting trips in 10 states.
Such efforts are deemed necessary in the present job market, especially for critical content areas and hard-to-staff schools. This situation is only expected to get worse. About 42 percent of the nation's 2.9 million teachers are near retirement age, and the U.S. Department of Education says more than a million replacement teachers will be needed by 2008.
These recruitment pressures affect every school district, and force administrators to cast wider nets to find qualified applicants. But while recruiting trips are expensive and time-consuming, and traditional print advertising has a limited reach, growing numbers of districts are turning to the Internet.
Since teacher placement is a gigantic market, there are countless numbers of free, fee-based, and in some cases even fraudulent Web sites to match employers and applicants. Most districts post jobs on specialized school-related sites. For example, Administrators.net offers a link to a searchable job center where administrators can post openings and teachers can post resumes. Similarly, online professional association job banks, including NSTA.org for science and NCTM.org for math, are prime locations to seek applicants in content areas.
But the quality of the district Web site is a key factor in attracting online applicants, and it is surprising how many administrators are not taking advantage of this powerful recruiting tool. Every district site should have a prominent employment section with detailed application instructions. Such announcements can present unlimited information about the schools and the community, including photo essays, audiovisual clips, virtual school tours, and links to related resources such as handbooks and salary schedules. A strong example is the "Employees" section of Nevada's Clark County Schools site, one of the fastest growing districts in the United States. Many states are also establishing statewide teacher job clearinghouses, such as TeachinFlorida.com and South Carolina's CERRA-the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement.
Many districts are now accepting online applications, and do online screening, such as the Irving Independent School District in Texas that uses an assessment administered by the Gallup organization. A few districts have also experimented with using Web cams to interview distant candidates.
The Jasper County School District now posts jobs on its Web site as well as at the statewide CERRA, and screens online applications. The Web gives districts immediate access to a national market of teachers, and you need to make sure that your online recruiting resources are up-to-date, and that you support your professional job sites.
Odvard Egil Dyrli, email@example.com,is senior editor and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.