Lexington Two strategies paying off in challenging recruiting environment

WEST COLUMBIA, SC -- Hiring season is in full swing for the 2018-19 school year for Midlands area districts, including Lexington Two.

With more vacancies expected because of the end of the statewide TERI program but a smaller pool of graduates from S.C. education programs, hiring is more competitive than ever.

“The number of available candidates in the pools we’ve traditionally pulled from -- college graduates, PACE and ABCTE participants and others -- is not keeping up with the hiring demands of our schools,” said Dr. Angela Cooper, Lexington Two’s chief human resources officer. “And more teachers appear to be leaving the profession sooner.”

On the heels of the recent Lexington Two Teacher Recruitment Fair, we talked with Kevin Smoak, the district’s coordinator for evaluation and effectiveness, about some of the district’s hiring strategies..

Q: What's new in recruiting for Lexington Two teaching jobs?

Smoak: Lexington Two is offering a $2,500 signing bonus for new hires certified in critical content areas such as secondary math and science, middle level math, science, ELA and social studies, foreign language, and special education. We’re also expanding our recruitment this year to include several out-of-state events. South Carolina is still the place where we’ll hire most of our teachers, but with the shrinking pool of graduates from the state’s teacher education programs, and a growing number of teaching needs,  it’s something we wanted to try.

Q: The end of the TERI program is affecting government agencies and schools across the state. How is TERI affecting hiring in Lexington Two?

Smoak: The end of TERI will mean an increase in the number of vacancies for the 2018-19 school year. If you look at our website, we’ve got a lot of vacancies posted now -- but those vacancies are for next school year as a result of TERI. We prepared earlier this year in anticipation of TERI to hire early and hire the best candidates. Our annual Lexington Two Teacher Recruitment Fair and other university recruitment fairs have proven to be very beneficial in recruiting and signing candidates. Although we have been successful, we still have vacancies for 2018-2019 and are actively looking to fill those.

Q: What kind of teachers are in demand most for Lexington Two right now?

Smoak: Special Education teachers are in highest demand as of today. We have hired many of the typically hard-to-fill positions such as middle level content areas and secondary science. We also have several new positions to fill for our new Lexington Two Innovation Center, which opens this fall.  Those teaching vacancies include barbering, culinary arts, electricity, and firefighter instructors.

Q: What is something people might not know about jobs in Lexington Two?

Smoak: About a third of our current vacancies are for positions other than teachers. Many may think that we only hire teachers; but teachers are only half of the staffing needs.  Other positions for which we regularly hire include full-time and part-time positions: maintenance, bus drivers, teacher assistants, shadows, clerical support, executive support specialist, and bookkeepers, computer lab managers, school nurses, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, ABA therapists, speech therapists, office support, bus aides, and computer technicians.

Q: What are you hearing that teachers are looking for most in a job, and how is Lexington Two addressing that?

Smoak: Many teachers ask, “What is Lexington Two doing to support teachers?” Research shows that the lack of support and being overwhelmed is one of the top reasons why teachers leave the profession. Lexington Two has a mentoring program for all induction teachers where every induction teacher is assigned a teacher mentor and administrator to “coach” and support them in every aspect of being a teacher during their first year. We also support teachers by finding ways to help save them time. That induction and mentoring program, for example, has a virtual option, with the same rigor and expectations as a traditional face-to-face program with monthly meetings, but everything is virtual and online. We also have virtual training opportunities, too. These kinds of things save teachers time and paperwork. We’re always looking for ways to make teachers’ lives easier.