Boston teacher praises new hiring policy

Earlier decisions will benefit everyone

There are few things that have given me as much relief as getting my notice that I was now a permanent teacher. The years of stress and confusion over whether or not I would have a job the following year were finally over. My principal could now tell me with certainty that I would be back next year, able to continue my hard work with my amazing fourth graders in Dorchester. Before receiving my permanent status, I would spend the spring and summer months worrying about the future of my job, since I was a provisional teacher, and therefore could lose my job to a more senior teacher.

I was not alone. The hiring process in the Boston Public Schools was constructed in such a way that 92 percent of the teachers were hired in July, August, and even September. For too long, many early career teachers like me had to wait until August or even September to learn if we would be employed in the coming school year.

Now that’s about to change. Under a new policy, principals in the Boston Public Schools will be given the freedom to hire whomever they want and to make those hiring decisions in the spring and early summer. More Boston teachers and principals are going to experience that same relief of settling hiring decisions before August rolls around. This flexibility has the potential to benefit teachers, students, and school communities. (For more on this new policy, see CommonWealth’s report.)

Finally, I no longer have to watch talented teachers leave our school after a year to find guaranteed jobs in other districts. Finally, friends of mine no longer have to wonder whether or not they will be employed come September. Finally, my school doesn’t have to scramble in August to fill vacancies we’ve delayed announcing because, in the spring, the district could place more senior teachers without positions in our school, regardless of their fit with our needs. And, finally, great teachers won’t leave the school for guaranteed positions in charter schools or other districts.

My worst experience was trying to get hired back for my second year. I had already completed a year at my school, and my principal was pleased with the work I had done. I had already developed a rapport with students who had few guarantees of stability in their lives. I wanted to stay and my principal wanted me to stay. She knew I fit in with the school culture, and she’d already spent a year training me to further improve my teaching skills. She tried to get me reasonable assurance that I could be hired, but it was denied.

I left on the last day of school completely lost: Should I look for a job over the summer and leave the school I’d come to love, or should I wait for my principal to find me a position – and risk having no job come September? I had a year under my belt, and was still no better off than I had been fresh out of graduate school. Finally, with two weeks left before school, my principal called and let me know she had found me a position in the school.

Despite the fact that my job is now safe, I’ve seen the effects of a lack of hiring autonomy every year. Just this past year, we had an amazing teacher who had been a long-term substitute for us in kindergarten. Even though my principal knew she wanted to hire this teacher, she couldn’t. By the time the principal was finally able to offer her a job, she had accepted a position in Somerville.

Meet the Author
Too many teachers leave the profession in the first five years. Part of this exodus, I’m sure, has to do with the lack of job security in the early years. To recruit a new generation of teachers to fill in the jobs left by the roughly 400 teachers who retire or leave the district every year, we must be able to offer some kind of job security early on, even if it’s only being able to confirm teachers’ employment if they are doing a good job. Granting more schools hiring autonomy allows for those schools to retain the great teachers they already have – and that’s good for teachers and students.

Caroline Corcoran is currently a fourth and fifth grade reading teacher at the Kenny Elementary School in Dorchester.