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Hall schools let teacher candidates come to them

County system's job fair draws big crowd

POSTED: March 6, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Scott Rogers The Times/

Dr. Sandra Edwards, left, interviews Justin C. Avery on Saturday morning at the Gainesville Civic Center as Avery and hundreds of other applicants interviewed for teacher positions in the Hall County School System. Avery arrived in Atlanta early Saturday morning after flying in from his home in Montclair, N.J.

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Hall County's school system used to take its recruiting efforts on the road as it, like others throughout Georgia, scratched and clawed its way through the tight, highly competitive teacher market.

Georgia's education colleges have been producing far fewer teachers than the fast-growing state requires to lead classrooms, leaving some systems working to fill vacancies until the school year starts.
Hall now puts all its recruiting efforts in one basket: an annual job fair, such as the one held Saturday at the Gainesville Civic Center.

That's especially the case now that the fair has grown in popularity. The first fair, held several years ago, drew 200 applicants; last year's drew 500. Saturday's fair had applicants lined up out of the civic center door.

This year's fair, advertised through billboards and newspaper ads, was expected to attract candidates from as far as away as Michigan. A couple from Hawaii had expressed interest in working for the district, school officials said.

Richard Hill, Hall County schools' associate superintendent for human resources, said that traveling to fairs is too "labor intensive" and costly, as it involves travel and lodging expenses. Besides, teacher job fairs, usually sponsored by colleges, can feature 50 to 75 prospective employers, Hill said. By having its own job fair, the school system knows that visitors "have looked at us already, they're interested in us and they care enough to come to Gainesville to our fair," he said.

Gainesville plans to hold its schools' job fair at 8 a.m.-noon March 15 at Gainesville High School.
Elfreda Lakey, the district's human resources director, said the district "has such an excellent reputation for academic excellence (that) a number of teacher candidates apply to our system."

Another appeal, she added, is that the district's teacher salaries are among the highest in Northeast Georgia.

"We are filling vacancies now," Lakey said. "There are a number of student teachers in our system who will be graduating at the end of the year. The student teachers have done an excellent job, and we have offered them contracts."

Hall schools expect to hire some 300 teachers and Gainesville 25 for the 2008-09 school year. Many hires are to fill spots left by departing teachers. Hill said he expects the district will have some 50 to 60 teachers retiring, a rising trend with the aging of the baby boomer generation.

Some teachers leave because of a spouse's job transfer or to stay home to take care of children. School officials also may to choose not to renew a teacher's contract for the coming school year, with those teachers informed in March by their principals, Hill said.

"I predict very few formal nonrenewals since most teachers request the opportunity to resign rather than being nonrenewed," he said.

A dozen or so teachers have decided to go this route. The status of another 25 teachers "has been placed on hold, meaning their principal has requested an additional month before making a final decision," Hill said.

State law requires that teachers be notified by April 15 if their employment won't be renewed. "When a teacher does not meet the expectations of Hall County, they must be replaced," Hill said. "Our children deserve the best; our parents expect nothing less."

The Hall County Board of Education is scheduled to vote March 10 on teacher contracts, Hill said.
Last year, the system hired about 290 teachers and added more as the year progressed.

About 42 percent of last year's hires were fresh out of college and the remainder were experienced teachers. The average years of experience among the entire group was 10, Hill said.


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