Teachers Are Given a Voice for the First Time

October 07, 2013

Teachers Are Given a Voice for the First Time

by Gayle Manchin, West Virginia Board of Education President

"I really believe that this process of hiring, if done correctly, will eliminate a lot of hiring based on anything other than the qualifications of the right person for the position. We went into the process with a single goal: to hire a first grade teacher who was driven to nurture and provide the best quality education possible for each of her students regardless of different skill levels, home environments or behavior issues."

Those are the words of Beverly Hartley, a Ripley Elementary teacher and WVAFT member. She embraced the new West Virginia teacher hiring policy which gives educators a strong voice for the first time ever in hiring a school teaching team. For many years I have heard a clear and concise message from teachers - "Just let us do our jobs and we will not fail you." I believe this to be a foundational truth and the avenue to success for any school system. As a member of the West Virginia Board of Education, it is so important that we trust teachers. Earlier this year, board members further solidified our confidence in teachers with the passage of Policy 5000: Procedures for Designated Hiring and Transfer of School Personnel. Principals and teachers have always been accountable for student achievement but have felt they were restricted in their ability to build a school teaching team. The new hiring policy empowers teachers. We trust they know what their schools need and what their students require to thrive in the classroom environment.

Policy 5000 gives schools options related to establishing a Faculty Senate recommendation process. Teachers on the Faculty Senate Committee are entrusted to review applicants for a position within their school and make a joint recommendation to the principal and county superintendent. The policy allows members of the Faculty Senate Committee to determine what teacher qualities and factors are most important for the individual school and students. In addition, every teacher has the opportunity to take online training to be eligible to participate as a member of the Faculty Senate Committee. Teachers who complete the training and are chosen to serve as a Faculty Senate representative in making hiring recommendations will be compensated for their service outside of the regular work day.

Beverly grasped the opportunity to participate on her Faculty Senate Committee and is the chairperson of Ripley Elementary team. She, along with three other colleagues, have interviewed and helped hire the school's new first grade teacher. The hiring team consisted of a Title I teacher with vast training and knowledge regarding instruction in reading at the first grade level; a first grade teacher with experience at the grade level; and, a second grade teacher who had knowledge of expectations for first grade students when they exit first grade and enter second grade. Beverly will be the first to tell you that the final recommendation on who to hire was not made lightly. The team was given a list of 22 prospective applicants and after reviewing information on each of them, chose three applicants to interview. According to Beverly, "Those three were all excellent educators and we could not have gone wrong with any one of them. After much discussion regarding the strengths and weakness of each candidate, we all agreed on recommending the same applicant for the job."

As with any change or any new endeavor, there will be bumps along the way. I ask all schools to embrace the challenges. It is evident from Beverly's story that the intent of the policy is flourishing. Most importantly, it is working for the students of Ripley Elementary who welcomed a new first grade teacher who is "driven to nurture and provide the best quality education possible for each of her students."

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