For the first time Thursday, the DeSoto County School District (DCS) embarked on a unique step for them toward filling its many classrooms with teachers for the 2018-19 school year.
The district held its first Teacher Career Fair in the board room of its Central Services Office in Hernando that afternoon. Mississippi’s largest public school district had put out the word that it was hiring and upwards of 250 candidates registered or walked in, resumes in hand and firm handshakes at the ready, set to put their best foot forward to the 41 principals on hand.
“This is one of the smartest things we’ve ever done, to bring all of the great people to us,” said Rosie King, principal at Horn Lake Intermediate School. “The Central Office supports principals in recruiting teachers tremendously, so to me this is just another example of how they help us get the best teachers.”
District officials planned for the career fair by getting the word out to different schools with graduating seniors looking for teaching jobs, a major effort through media outlets and social media, contacts with area chambers of commerce, and other means of letting candidates be aware of Thursday’s event.
You might say, where principals previously were “beating the bushes” for teachers, now the “bushes” came to them.
“This is our chance to bring them to us,” said Van Alexander, DCS Associate Superintendent for Personnel/Human Resources. “This was the applicants’ opportunity to come in today and meet all 41 of our principals in one room and one place. We think it’s a win-win for DeSoto County Schools, first and foremost, and a win-win for the applicants that are looking for teaching jobs for quality candidates.”
The board room was arranged with eight different tables, set up by high schools, where the high school and their feeder school principals were on hand to chat and do quick interviews with the teacher candidates.
The principals came to the Hernando event already made aware of the openings they would have to fill.
“We have given the principals their allotment for the next year earlier than ever, so the principals that are in this room know what they need specifically to hire,” Alexander said. “We’re always looking to hire as highly qualified candidates as possible and there are opportunities here in DeSoto County Schools.”
School principals collectively felt the career fair was a great idea.
“In an environment like this, you get a more relaxed candidate who is willing to loosen up and talk a little more and it’s not in a business-like atmosphere,” said Horn Lake High School principal Andy Orr. “It’s more like a meet-and-greet, get to know you type of situation.”
“This is a chance to meet those who are interested in us,” added Center Hill High School principal Doug Payne. “A lot of times you get through phone calls and emails, but to see somebody face-to-face and get to meet them, get to know their interest and have a quick little interview, it means a lot when you get to start hiring and you already feel like you know the person.”
Among the potential teachers who came for Thursday’s fair was Holly Starkey of Lake Cormorant, who knew the DeSoto County district would be a good place to teach.
“I went to school in Hernando until high school and then I was homeschooled after that,” Starkey said. “It’s close to home and DeSoto County is a great place to send your kids to school and to be employed.”
The school administrators were hoping most of their teacher hirings for the upcoming year could be completed after Thursday’s event.
“I would love to think that all of mine would be filled after today, especially with the amount of candidates that we have here,” said Orr, with Payne adding, “The goal here is to leave with a teacher, to have a teacher hired. That was the goal for having this and there are some good opportunities here with great resumes coming my way.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.