By Sue Botos
Although the 26 new teachers welcomed to the school district at last week’s Chamber of Commerce luncheon may not have the accumulated experience of the 17 retired instructors they replaced, school officials are optimistic that a thorough screening process has produced a group of quality educators. Also, the additional teachers will not contribute to a rise in the bottom line, due to careful budgeting.
Assistant Superintendent Liz Anderson introduced the educators, stating that over 1,000 applications were received, and 430 of those applicants were chosen for interviews, which yielded the group of 26.
Superintendent Michael Shoaf, who gave the address at the luncheon, explained afterward some of the methods used during the teacher search. “This was a rigorous process. We had to make sure we were seeking someone with a strong academic background and a strong commitment to teaching,” said Shoaf, adding that while a few of the teachers are recent college graduates, the most experienced of the group have spent eight to ten years in the classroom. Of those just starting out, Shoaf said their academic and student teaching work was scrutinized. “They were not just good student teachers, they were outstanding,” he said.
Shoaf also pointed out a similarity with the group of retirees, many of whom served the district for 25 to 30 years. “If they spent that long with Rocky River, they had to have come here relatively new,” he said.
Interview sessions consisted of intense questioning based on the Haberman interview model, which was developed by Martin Haberman, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Shoaf explained that the processes identified certain styles based on answers given dealing with such topics as creative problem solving, working as a team member and the inclusion of parents and community members as partners. Those who scored the highest reflected a passion for teaching and leadership qualities.
A similar interview model by the Gallup Company, which is best known for opinion polls, was also employed. “We spent a lot of time over the summer becoming interviewers,” stated Shoaf.
The fact that more teachers were hired than retired at the end of last school year will not significantly add to the district bottom line, according to school officials. School board President Scott Swartz said, after the luncheon, that the two sets of salaries will be about even until the newer teachers gain experience. He added that he is not worried about those who are just beginning their careers. “A new teacher can be excellent, and someone with 10 years of experience can be a dud,” he said.
According to information provided by treasurer Greg Markus, teacher salaries for the 2010-2011 school year amounted to $1,922,000, including benefits. For the upcoming year, the number is less, at $1,083,000, for a savings of $839,000.
“A buyout last year allowed many teachers to retire, and that saves us money in the long run,” said Shoaf. He continued that the new teachers’ salaries have also been taken into consideration in light of state budget cuts, from which the district is predicted to lose $800,000 a year for five years.
This is basically due to the phaseout of funds from tangible personal property taxes and utility reimbursement, which the district had planned on losing gradually, instead of over the next year. Shoaf reiterated that through careful budgeting, the district has been able to stretch out its current operating levy for another year, predicting a return to the ballot in 2012. “We’ve had RIF (reduction in force) of nonteaching employees and we’ve cut some positions such as librarians, one second grade teacher and a half (day) kindergarten teacher,” said Shoaf, adding that the classroom is the priority.
During his speech Shoaf stated, “Our academic performance is as high as it’s ever been. We’re proud of our financial record, and it’s an open book.” To the new teachers he said, “Our community values what you do for our kids every day.”