By Shawn DeRose
As the start of the school year quickly approached, I began panicking that we would not have a teacher hired in time for the start of the school year. It was my first year as an assistant principal and the thought of a substitute teacher in the classroom at the beginning of the year was a frightening thought. I believed I would be seen as a failure for not hiring a teacher prior to the start of the school year. The department chair, who was also relatively new to the position, and I decided to offer the position to a candidate who was well qualified but lacked the experience of working with the school’s diverse student population. I remember thinking to myself that the new hire will “work out fine.”
Despite our continuous support throughout the year, the teacher struggled in the classroom. Specifically, the teacher failed to manage student behavior and differentiate instruction to meet the needs of our diverse student population.
The experience taught me a valuable lesson in school administration – Do not hire someone who is the most qualified; hire someone who is the best fit for your school.
From that point forward, no matter if the vacancy was for a teacher, coach, or custodian, I told myself that I would never hire someone who was not the best fit for the school. However, that philosophy is easy to follow in May, June, and July, but in August it is harder and harder with each passing day to hold myself to that practice with the beginning of school looming.
This past year once again tested my conviction to that belief. Despite conducting countless interviews between March and the beginning of the school year, the department chair and I could not find a candidate who we felt was a good fit for our school. After the department chair and I had numerous conversations about a candidate we had interviewed, we agreed that he/she might “work out fine”.
However, with the lesson from my first year as an administrator still fresh in my memory, we did not offer the position to that candidate. Instead, we began contacting recently retired teachers to substitute until the position was filled. Two days before the start of school, we interviewed a candidate who was a “fit” our building. The qualities this candidate embodied were all the qualities we were looking for: knowledgeable in content area, professional in the way he/she dealt with faculty and staff, and capable of reaching the goals we had set for the department.
I learned that sometimes in our rush to fulfill a vacancy, we settle for candidates that are not always the best fit. However, I have learned finding the right candidate takes time. I am willing to place tried and true retired teachers in the classroom while I take my time to look for the best candidate for our school. Ensuring that we have quality teachers in the classroom is what is best for students and isn’t that what it’s all about?
Shawn DeRose is Director of Student Activities
at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology