In our family of schools, our most precious resource is our teachers. All other personnel exist to support and enable our teachers to be the best for their students. We also have a profound appreciation of the key role parents play in supporting our teaching staff. So, for all staff and parents, this article provides an understanding of how we cultivate and promote our team of educational professionals.
First, our administrative and curriculum personnel arise from within our own teacher ranks. They have spent years in the classrooms and understand first-hand what is required to succeed in the classroom with our unique classical curriculum and direct instruction methods.
When an administrative or curriculum position becomes open, the job description is announced to all personnel across all our schools. Anyone interested in the position may apply; and when all applications are received, in-depth interviews with the candidates are held. The interviewing panel will consist of 8 to 10 senior staff members who then help select the candidate best suited for the position being filled.
With this open selection process, teachers and teacher assistants can choose their career path and understand how to best pursue their personal goals. For example, a teacher assistant may become a teacher, then a grade lead teacher, then obtain an operations position that may lead to an assistant headmaster, and then a headmaster role. Or the lead teacher may prefer to stay on the classroom side and become a subject matter coach and eventually a curriculum dean. Notice that the common element of all positions is a demonstrated ability to support those in the classroom.
By having clear career paths open to all, we attract and hold the very best personnel. The challenge is magnified by our achievement-grouped classical curriculum which teaches cursive handwriting beginning in 1st grade, English grammar with diagramming beginning in K, phonetic spelling from 1st grade, Latin in 4th through 8th grade, yearly units on Shakespeare, and a rigorous classical history beginning in 1st grade. These topics are not taught in most schools of education, which means our coaches and deans must provide extensive training, support, and mentoring for new teachers. For mid-year changes, before a teacher leaves her classroom to assume her new duties, she will overlap with the incoming teacher to ensure a familiarization with the students for a smooth transition.
The payoff for our open career path process is exemplified by our teacher retention statistics and in the experience of our staff for the 2016-17 year. Even excluding experience before coming to CDS, CDS teachers have an average experience of 4 years within our system and its curriculum. We also had 8 promotions and transfers within the system last year and look forward to similar well-deserved promotions this year. Most importantly, every school’s students met or exceeded expected academic growth for the year.
Our robust curriculum makes it imperative that those in management positions have the experience required to aid and support the teachers in the classroom. To hire a coach or an assistant headmaster from outside who has never taught these vital, but widely ignored topics, would be discouraging to the teaching staff who depend on properly informed administrative decisions in critical matters.
A consequence of promotion from within is that when an opening occurs near the top, it will produce a series of openings on down the chain. When a Dean retires, more than likely she will be replaced by a coach, who will be replaced by a senior teacher who will be replaced by a less experienced teacher. However, each person in the chain will thoroughly understand the demands of the position which he or she is tasked to support.
The result is a complete staff that functions as an experienced team. The ultimate winners are our students who reap the benefits of having a solid grounding in topics and skills that have proven essential over the millennia. In the competitive global environment in which they will find themselves, this comprehensive education ensures that they can nimbly apply their particular talents to their career aspirations for achieving success.