Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I'd Like to Solve the Puzzle Please!

Anyone out there a Wheel of Fortune fan? I'm not, but it seemed like a great title for this article! Last week I mentioned that we are in hiring season, and I think the metaphor of solving a puzzle is a great way to think about how our principals go about assembling a staff and creating a master instructional schedule. When it comes to hiring staff, some teaching positions yield a huge number of applicants while others, unfortunately, require us to go on the offense and court teachers in other school districts that may not be otherwise looking for a job. Undoubtedly, in those hard to fill positions the challenge is exacerbated by the fact that in Hudson, like the majority of schools our size, there aren't enough students enrolled in some courses and content area to warrant a full-time teaching position.

So why not simply make the position full time and fill the teacher's schedule with other courses? Well, that is usually easier said than done. Just because someone has a teaching license doesn't mean we can have them teach anything we want. Teachers are credentialed in a certain subject matter and often times don't have the right license or credential to teach other courses that may be needed in the schedule. Just because someone has a license to teacher World History doesn't necessarily mean they are licensed to teach American History. To find out what courses your child's teacher is licensed to teach, you can search for a teacher's license on the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners licensing site. For your convenience, you can check out this link here.

Nevertheless, an already difficult to hire position is made all the more so because it isn't full time. Of course, teachers are going to be more attracted to a full-time position that includes benefits as opposed to one that doesn't. To combat this, if we can create a full-time position by sharing that teacher with another school district it helps quite a bit. But the challenge then becomes: When is the teacher going to be in district 'A' and in district 'B'? Once that has been ironed out, it locks down the remainder of the master schedule for the school district, which can create other challenges.

We have a couple of teachers in Hudson this year that are shared with other school districts. It works pretty well for us, but it does create scheduling challenges. In the high school, we have to be careful that some of the more popular or advanced classes that may only have one section aren't scheduled at the same time as another popular or advanced class. Think for example the problem it would cause if we scheduled band and chorus for the same hour? How about AP Chemistry and AP Physics during the same hour? It is usually impossible to create a schedule where conflicts like this don't exist, but we do our very best to mitigate scheduling conflicts. Having students make choices about which courses they want to take is healthy, but we try our best to make sure they have the maximum opportunity to achieve their academic goals.

It may also surprise you to know that there is quite a bit of internal lobbying that happens when it comes to creating the master schedule! Teachers are fully aware of what are considered 'premium' instructional time slots and want to ensure they are able to teach during those times. Think about it for a second: would you rather have your class first thing in the morning or right after lunch, or at the end of the day. There is definitely a difference! Understandably, someone has to fill these slots.

Staffing and scheduling are a puzzle that requires abstract thinking and the ability to consider a holistic approach to our schedule and staff. As I mentioned last week, this is but another Cycle of the School Year and a puzzle that will take several months to solve!

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