meet the challenge of hiring
more than 1,200 new teachers each term
By Kelly Herndon
Director, Recruitment and Retention
Gwinnett County Public Schools
Special to GwinnettForum.com
SEPT. 10, 2002 - - Imagine selecting, screening and hiring 1,200
new employees in six months! Gwinnett County Public Schools, the
largest employer in Gwinnett, did just that in 2002----and done
in face of a very real teacher shortage in this country.
To give some perspective, the State of Georgia needed 12,000 new
teachers to begin classes for fall 2002. The colleges of education
in Georgia graduated 3,500 educators. Three counties, Cobb, Gwinnett
and Fulton, needed all of these candidates and more.
Add to the hiring challenge, a nationwide mandate, one taken very
seriously in Gwinnett, of attracting highly qualified candidates.
No surprise in a county of overachievers, the human resources team
of GCPS added an additional strategic goal of seeking top quality
candidates that reflect the unique demographics of Gwinnett.
Members of the recruiting team, along with local school and central
office administrators, visited more than 320 colleges and job fairs,
seeking the best and the brightest from across the country. The
result, August 12, 2002, the first day of school, found Gwinnett
County Public Schools - the largest school system in the state of
Georgia, and one of the largest in the nation - fully staffed.
Dr. Frances Davis, chief Human Resources Officer, stated: "We
wouldn't be where we are today - with a qualified in-field teacher
in every classroom - without an incredible team effort, devoted
to recruiting, hiring, and retaining the best and the brightest."
Dr. Davis further noted the aggressive support of the board of education,
and of Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks, in allowing candidates to
be hired early in the recruiting season, as well as, a collaborative
effort by principals and central office staff to get applicants
Candidates found three attractive and compelling features in this
county hard to beat: a healthy and diverse business base (needed
for a spouse to find work); a large selection of available and affordable
housing; and the biggest draw of all, an award winning, adequately
funded public school system.
With Georgia, as a state, now ranking 50th in average SAT scores,
you can bet the recruiting team will be asked about this when on
the road. Yet Gwinnett students posted the highest SAT scores in
county history, achieving an average score of 1,033. That ranked
Gwinnett among the brightest in the country. It earned the seniors
$50 million in academic scholarships over and above the HOPE scholarship.
You may wonder how Georgia's ranking can be so "abysmal"?
One way, used by many states, is to encourage only the top 30 percent
of students to take the SAT. Just 4 per cent of all seniors in North
Dakota for example, take the SAT and it ranks number one in the
country at 1207. Imagine what the top 30 per cent of scores in Gwinnett
would tell us. But, we aren't a state that encourages the few at
the expense of the many.
Growth in Gwinnett schools represents the hope and promise of a
better tomorrow longed for by so many. How can one find fault with
parents, from all backgrounds, in seeking the very best for the
next generation? Isn't that the essence of the American dream?
Fall 2003 is fast approaching, with eight new schools scheduled
to open, bringing our total to 94 schools and 130,000 or more students.
Another 7,000 new students will have found their way to Gwinnett
over the summer. We will need at least 1,600 new teachers. We have
our work cut out for us, but we will be ready and parents know it.
That's why they come.
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