On January 31, 2024, BloomBoard gathered together 75 superintendents and education leaders from across Pennsylvania to discuss practical solutions for teacher recruitment and retention at our first Pennsylvania Education Leadership Forum.

The day-long event included panel presentations and multiple breakout sessions with facilitated discussions on topics ranging from how to optimize school district marketing efforts to launching grow-your-own programs. Pennsylvania superintendents and education leaders had opportunities throughout the day to engage in collaborative conversations and explore innovative strategies for building a teacher pipeline, developing talent, and increasing staff diversity.

With an issue as complex as solving the teacher shortage, we know systemic change won’t happen overnight. But by regularly making the space for committed leaders to share ideas and create solutions collectively, I strongly believe we can get there sooner than we might expect. In fact, many districts are already implementing exciting new pathways to teaching that break the mold of traditional teacher training in ways that are accessible and highly effective.

Read on to learn some key takeaways from the event. And as always, reach out if you’d like to talk one-on-one about your own district’s needs: Email Lauren.Patterson@bloomboard.com (PA or NJ districts) or hello@bloomboard.com (districts outside of PA or NJ).

Marketing for Recruitment and Retention

In this tactical session, Pennsylvania education leaders shared how they’ve evolved their marketing strategies to reach a broader and more diverse candidate pool. Some tips and key takeaways:
Leverage social media, accessible language, media channels, affinity groups, and community-based organizations.

  • Reframe the narrative around the teaching opportunity and highlight the impact the candidate can have in the role. Allow existing teachers to represent the district to help candidates see themselves in the role.
  • Empathize with the candidates to help frame messaging. Who are you trying to attract? Are you reaching out to Gen Z through channels they prefer (e.g., mobile)? Speak to prospective candidates in ways that matter to them and via channels they are familiar with and trust.

Funding Pathways to Teaching

The focus of this session was how districts are rethinking funding approaches for teaching staff including proactive investment decisions and budgeting considerations. Key takeaways:

  • Reframe budgets differently to take into account fill rate percentages, always hiring cycles, and retirement planning.
  • Consider how dollars are being spent reactively and reallocate them to proactive means like growing your own.
  • Take a strategic approach to funding pathways and consider alternative recruitment incentives.

Diversifying Teaching Staff Through Many Lenses

In this session, facilitators and attendees delved into the value of diversifying the teaching staff and strategies for doing so. Key takeaways:

  • DEI is not a compliance item or a “nice to have,” but rather a key driver of engagement and efficacy.
  • It’s important to consider all types of diversity – including socio-economic status, race/ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.
  • Ultimately, diversity comes down to a sense of community and belonging – and storytelling is key.

Pathways & Navigating Collective Bargaining Agreements

This session had education leaders highlighting barriers and opportunities created by current collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and discussing how to leverage them to build the next generation of the teacher workforce. Key takeaways:

  • It’s critical to leverage relationships to front-load or educate stakeholders (e.g., Board, etc.) about new models and benefits that could support (even with placement risks, etc.).
  • Consider how your support staff might have access to career advancement opportunities as well through their CBAs.
  • MOAs/MOUs (w/ term dates) provide opportunities to create selection criteria and limit offerings to “high quality” options.

Advocating for Early Pathways to GYO

In this strategic session, education leaders discussed the state-level landscape of Grow Your Own (GYO) programs and the importance of political advocacy in influencing state education funding. Key takeaways:

  • Political advocacy via meaningful, ongoing relationships with policymakers is critical. Most legislators don’t have any education experience so it’s up to edu leaders to educate them, especially when it comes to GYO programs.
  • Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs offer a potential workaround to address some of the foundational elements of GYO.
  • Join other PA education leaders for PASA’s Day on the Hill planned for April.

For more information on how BloomBoard is supporting districts with recruitment and retention solutions, contact us at https://bloomboard.com/contact-us/