A Q&A with Greg Sieszputowski, director of leadership development and executive search services for the Michigan Association of School Boards
There is a growing crisis in that we have a very real shortage in school staff, from superintendents to teachers and beyond. Why is that?
There are a lot of people in the profession who can retire, and the work is more demanding than it has ever been. Superintendents work 60-80 hours a week under constant scrutiny and are being asked to lead through unprecedented situations. For teachers, the intense amount of required documentation, the extensive preparation work and planning for every individual student need, trying to help kids who come to school with issues of trauma, and the stress of having your evaluation tied to student performance on an exam are making retirement very attractive. The lower numbers of students going into the profession or staying is partly due to low pay and high student loans. The retirement system was also reconfigured making it more undesirable.
What are the consequences?
Fewer teachers mean fewer people seeking principalships and, in turn, fewer are prepared for and seeking central office or superintendent roles. Additionally, nothing can replace a highly qualified teacher who is able to connect with kids. Right now, across the state, many substitutes are filling a great need and doing the best they can, but they are not highly trained educators.
What plans are in action to make change that will either retain or bring more qualified candidates into the fold through recruitment?
The Michigan Department of Education has waived recertification requirements for teachers who have let their certification lapse to encourage them to come back to teaching. Districts are paying hiring bonuses and longevity incentives. Detroit Public Schools Community District has seen a tremendous increase in applications by increasing their teacher starting salary. Districts are reaching out to programs to take on student-teachers and then offering them jobs upon graduation. In addition, some colleges and universities have started fast-track educator programs for those who have already attained another degree to attract more people to the profession.
How can the community be of support?
We are only going to find success together. Join a PTO, get involved in district input sessions, even just responding to district surveys make a difference. Most of all, we need to start being positive about education and the teaching profession. If young people only hear criticisms of a profession, why would they ever want to go into it?
For more information about the Michigan Association of School Boards, visit masb.org.