Date: Sunday, March 22, 2009, 9:06 AM
Even as they're firing, Santa Clara County school districts are hiring teachersBy Sharon Noguchi
Mercury NewsPosted: 03/21/2009 07:20:43 PM PDT
Click photo to enlargeIn the middle of the crowded room, Marifa Capili, foreground right, talks to... ( Pauline Lubens )12345»Fresh from pink slipping a record number of teachers, school districts from Santa Clara County were out hustling for more dynamic and inspiring instructors to hire for next school year.More than 1,000 would-be teachers waited patiently for a few minutes' face time Saturday at the annual teacher recruitment fair organized by the Santa Clara County Office of Education. All but three of the county's 32 school districts sent recruiters, as did many of the public charter schools.By the time the fair opened at 9 a.m., the line of teacher hopefuls snaked around the vast Ridder Park parking lot.The incongruity wasn't lost on Laura Kidwiler, the county assistant superintendent who put together the 22nd annual fair: "It's really ironic you've got people here who received pink slips and also people who have just earned their credentials."
The challenge for them all, she said, is in "giving your best pitch in three minutes, then hoping for an interview."The paradox of agencies hiring even as they are firing is a result of California's complex education law as well as the difficult logistics of running schools. The recession has eaten into school budgets, and districts by law must notify teachers by March 15 if they even have a slim chance of not being rehired in June.But while firing is done by seniority, hiring is done by need. So districts are looking for teachers in math, science, foreign language and, especially, special education.
Advertisementclass="subhead">Lots of applicants
On Saturday, the line of applicants stretched across the room at the booth for Franklin-McKinley School District, which was offering a $9,000 hiring bonus for special-education teachers.Indeed, those with credentials to teach special education, for learning-disabled students, were invited Saturday to multiple interviews. About one in 10 students statewide is classified into special education, and federal law orders districts to tailor an appropriate education for them.The East Side Union High School District, which sent 130 pink slips to teachers two weeks ago, was interviewing for about five special-education jobs.Cathy Giammona, director of human resources, had to explain to pink-slipped teachers she saw Saturday that no, she wasn't there recruiting to fill their jobs. She explained that when the district sets its final budget later this spring, teachers who have been put on notice for budget reasons have first priority for new jobs.But many aren't
waiting to hear, including the hopefuls at the job fair. Giammona recognizes that odd situation. She said if teachers tell her that they've got an offer from another district, she counsels them, "You've got to take care of yourself," even though she knows East Side would love to hire them back if that possibility arises.Many applicants were banking on multiple qualifications: Sarah Rinck was seeking a job teaching either French or English as a Second Language; she's got a certificate to teach non-English speakers, and has experience teaching in France and China.Alejandro Gonzalez, a kindergarten teacher in Paso Robles who got a pink slip, has experience teaching a dual-immersion language class, but said he'd be happy to get any teaching job.Joan Schein left her research job in pharmaceuticals several years ago to earn a credential to teach biology. As she scanned the elbow-to-elbow crowd, she lamented, "I have a Ph.D. in neuroscience, and I can't get a
job teaching high school?"And Gerald Hawkins, seeking a job teaching math, has a master's in business and is a former engineer at Hewlett-Packard, Cisco and some startups.Few actual jobsClearly, it was a buyer's market."There's a lot of talent here," said Ben Picard, superintendent of the Sunnyvale School District, as he looked at an 18-inch-high plastic crate full of résumés that the district had collected to fill only two classroom positions, plus a few special-education and speech therapist jobs. The district didn't issue any layoff notices to teachers and expects enrollment to grow by about 110 students, but still, hiring will be slow. Five teachers who had put in for retirement rescinded their requests, he said.Palo Alto Unified, which normally hires more than 60 teachers, will have far fewer openings because retirements have slowed and several part-time teachers will switch to full time next year, said Assistant Superintendent Scott Bowers. By
midday, he had collected cards from perhaps 600 prospective applicants.Applicants said if they don't get a job offer, they'll work part time, try private schools or perhaps move. And they're likely to enrich the South Bay's pool of substitute teachers."Practically speaking, I have a one-in-50 chance at a job," Renee Malmonari said. "But I'm 100 percent hopeful."Giammona of East Side sadly surveyed the crowd and said she wished more jobs were available. That's unlikely — "unless a miracle occurs," said the 36-year veteran of education. In education budgeting, "this is about the worst I've ever seen. It's heartbreaking."Contact Sharon Noguchi at snoguchi@...
or (408) 271-3775.
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