Teacher Shortage? 6 Ways to Prep for Unexpected Vacancies

Handle that last-minute resignation like a boss.

teachers wanted

The best thing a principal can do is hire the best and brightest teachers out there to work with their students. Get top talent in your building, and the school will run itself. But what do you do when you receive a midsummer resignation and can’t be as methodical in your hiring or take a lot of time to find a replacement? 

There are many ways a school leader can proactively prepare for what I call the annual summer surprise. Here are six tips to ensure that a late-July text message doesn’t completely upend your hopes for a restful summer break.

1. Anticipate the summer surprise.

If you count on receiving at least one midsummer resignation, you won’t be devastated when you get that unexpected “Can we chat?” email. You will be confident, prepared, and ready to say goodbye with grace.

2. Stay in contact with top candidates.

Maybe last year you did a round of hiring and had more great candidates than openings. Communicate how much you valued each candidate and be willing to keep the doors open. Then, check in once in a while to see how their search is going. If the time comes for you to fill a spot, you’ll be glad you stayed in touch.

3. Regularly check out your district’s recruitment site.

Most school districts have software for reviewing résumés and conducting searches for some of the best talent out there. I regularly conduct searches of these and reach out to candidates who scored an eight or above on our district’s 10-point candidate-rating scale. The intent is mostly to introduce myself. That way if I receive a midsummer resignation and a job does become available, I have already established a relationship.

4. Keep in touch with your sub pool and retirees.

Substitute teachers and retirees are often the most underappreciated and untapped networks of support for schools. If you maintain strong relationships with your subs by doing things like including them on staff emails and in events, reaching out to them regularly, and showing them how much you value their contributions, they are more likely to help you out in a pinch. Butter up the right person, and you’ll have someone available before school starts. Then, when the right permanent candidate comes along, their students are ready for them.

5. Tap your networks.

More than likely, other principals in your school district are doing their share of summer hiring as well. If you have an email group or share social media with them, keep in touch about their searches. They may be able to spare you hours of combing through résumés and conducting interviews. You can make an offer remotely and without hesitation, because you know a candidate has been already vetted.

6. Know your contract.

If all else fails, you may not necessarily have to say goodbye so easily. Teachers have to sign contracts each year, and your district may have a policy on breaking this contract. Just because one of your teachers got a great opportunity at another school closer to home or is moving into a central office role doesn’t mean you have to accept their midsummer resignation. You may be able to hold your ground graciously and explain you’re happy to let them go once the vacancy has been filled.

With the right attitude, preparation, and networking, those summer surprises can end up just being minor blips. You’ll find an excellent new staff member and be right back to enjoying a blissful summer rejuvenation in no time.

How have you handled midsummer resignations and other summer surprises? Come share in our Principal Life Facebook group.

Plus, interviewing advice for new principals.

Posted by Jennifer Butterfoss

Jennifer Kuhr Butterfoss is a school leader, speaker and writer. She is currently both a proud site administrator and parent of San Francisco Unified School District public schools. She is passionate about serving school communities specifically through a parenting, talent management and systems lens and is a feature writer and columnist for the Golden Gate Mothers Group magazine. She is also the author of an upcoming book called Entering the Lions Den: A School Leaders Guide to Building Trust, Inspiring Others and Not Getting Eaten in Year One. You can find out more on her website jenniferkuhrbutterfoss.com.

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