Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hire the Best (pt 3)

If you're still following along, I've shared an inside look into how a principal builds the best staff possible for the upcoming school year.

The first post shared how we had experienced the loss of an incredibly talented young educator to one of our feeder elementary schools.

The second post detailed how sometimes the stars align and a former staff member may somehow rejoin your staff through a bit of luck and timing.

This post shares how we were able to fill the our last open position for the upcoming school year... it's about always having a plan.

With Ms. Starr's impending departure for Noddin, we now had a 6th grade math/science core position to fill. I needed someone who had experience with 6th grade students, who was both an expert in mathematics and science at the 6th grade level, and who would understand our school culture and community from the minute go.

Over the next few days, I explored a variety of options for this now-open position. I attended the Santa Clara County Job Fair and met a few prospective candidates, all eager to find an educational home. I spoke with principals outside the district about any teachers they had who were ready for a possible change in their professional career. I would check in with our Human Resources department seemingly hourly for an update.

Despite all of these conversations, nothing seemed to make sense. There didn't seem to be a perfect fit.

And that's the thing. I won't accept anything less than a perfect fit for our students and for our staff. I fully expect to be able to hire the best possible educator to join our staff. I've shared my thoughts about our school community before. Our kids are awesome. Our parent community is supportive. And the staff is second to none -- it is easily the best staff I've ever worked with. No other staff puts kids first like the staff I have the pleasure of working with at Union Middle.

And that's when I got a random text, completely out of the blue, from a former UMS teacher.

This educator has left two years prior for an administrative position in a very wealthy district about 20 miles north. Unbeknownst to her, I kept close tabs on her progress as an admin. I only heard good things. Unlike many new-to-administration educators (including myself), this individual immediately and successfully blended the constant balancing act we administrators have to face in our daily routines. She was fantastic with kids. She supported her staff. She worked closely with the parent community.

And while I can't speak for her, I do know that being an administrator is a lonely place to be sometimes. You miss the classroom every single day. I still do myself.

You're viewed differently. The public figure aspect of the job is just bizarrely uncomfortable.

And maybe, to her, no matter where she was, it just wasn't home. It just wasn't Union Middle.

So we conversed over text and that quickly switched to a phone conversation.

She was looking for a change. No doubt in her mind. She wanted to come back to Union Middle. Did I have a spot?

Yes and no.

To make the spot in 8th grade science, a hard conversation had to take place with a current staff member. They would have to shift to Ms. Starr's 6th grade assignment, opening up a spot in 8th grade science. The move made sense. The now-6th grade teacher had taught at this grade level before with much success. The opportunity to have her rejoin our 6th grade team and create the opening at the 8th grade science level just made perfect sense.

During these frantic days, I would regularly check in with our superintendent and assistant superintendent of Human Resources. In some districts, a principal may not have the support for such out of the box thinking. Here, in USD, our district team was heavily invested and working hard to help make this entire project a reality almost overnight.

Fast forward a few days and it was a go. This actually could be happening. The plan was slowly coming together.

The hardest part about everything that was happening was not sharing the good news with our staff. While I dropped hints in various conversations with inquiring staff members, I knew that I needed to allow all of the dominoes to fall in a timely fashion. As more than a few of my staff will share, I'm not a big fan of secrets. I just prefer to be upfront and honest about everything; it's easier to keep track of the truth this way. Sadly, in education and many other work place environments, that's just not possible.

Finally, today, I was able to share the good news with our staff: Mary Martin was coming home to Union Middle.

At first, the staff didn't believe me. One teacher even said, "wait, is he serious? he can't be serious... is he serious?" Another staff member, someone who may have already known, confirmed that the news I was sharing, that Mary Martin was returning to Union Middle, was the truth. Smiles started to break out at every single table. The noise got a bit louder. I too stood at the front of the room, smiling at finally being able to share such good news.

After all, Mary has close to twenty years classroom experience. She has been at the forefront of our transition to a balanced implementation of technology in the classroom. We have co-presented at conferences. She's even been the president of our teachers' union and, in my opinion, performed extremely well to support the USD staff and students in this role. Mary is someone who sees the bigger picture and works collaboratively with all parties to make the goodness happen.

As I shared previously, she's one of those "I'll do whatever I can to support kids" kind of educators. She's expertly training in AVID. Her experience in teaching students how to love science is something district and noticeable when speaking with her students. I've often referred to her as the glue that kept our science department together.

Simply put, she's one of the best educators I've had the pleasure of working with in my 15+ years in education and we are truly blessed she's coming back home to Union Middle.

In my conversation with her on the phone, we discussed how happy she was in her present administrative role. She shared how amazing her students were, how friendly the community was, and how she'd build solid friendships with her staff.

But the difference is no matter how amazing those friendships are, she really missed her family at Union Middle.

And, without a doubt, the most important thing in and out of our profession is family.

Welcome home, Mary. 

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