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Software to help Hernando schools compete for new teachers

The district has on average 39 teacher openings.

BROOKSVILLE – Michael Maine sounded for a moment like a coach giving a pep talk during a pitch to the Hernando County School Board last week.

“Those who know me know that I’m extremely competitive,’’ he said. “And we need to stay competitive with Pasco.’’

He wasn’t talking about football, but rather the competition for job candidates during a nationwide teacher shortage.

Maine is seven months into the job of senior recruiter -- a new position created by superintendent John Stratton. Buying a new computer program that streamlines the cumbersome application process currently in place would put the district on an equal footing in that category with Pasco, which already has the system, called PowerSchool Unified Talent Employee Records.

The district needs to make sure that its job application process is “smooth’’ and “delightful,” as he put it. Research shows that if a candidate has a wonderful hiring experience, they’re more likely to stay with the organization for years to come, he said.

Addressing the board in an afternoon workshop, Maine, a former principal, said he would likely be trying to recruit some of the same job candidates as Pasco. The ease of the application process might make the difference in which district the candidate ultimately chooses, he said. All applicants, including custodians and secretaries, would use the system.

The board members all gave a thumbs-up to the request. The program, which should be running by late summer, will cost $37,560 the first year and $28,860 annually thereafter.

“On behalf of the four former principals that are sitting in this circle right now, if I was a current principal, I’d be doing the happy dance,’’ said Board Chairwoman Susan Duval, “because the previous system is fraught with obstacles, timelines, inefficiencies at every corner, and it’s not the fault of any person.”

“This is long overdue in my opinion,’’ she said.

“Seems like a no-brainer,’’ said board member Gus Guadagnino.

Currently, Maine said, teacher candidates are sent 35 to 40 documents via email. Human resources manager Ray Pinder had an assistant send the packet to Maine so he could experience what it would be like to be one of those candidates, “and it’s extremely lengthy.’’

While candidates can to fill out the comments in a PDF format, he said, it’s not really electronic in nature. They can return the completed documents by email or print them out and bring them to the job interview, which most of them do.

“It is a packet that is extremely thick and large,’’ he said. Then the staff has to scan the documents into the system. The process increases the chances of human error, he noted.

The new, automated system will allow candidates to complete the process online. And Pinder, Maine and other administrators, including principals at the school level, see where the candidate is in the process. The program lets applicants know if they missed filling out a form.

“We would be able to see if there was any holdup in the process and quickly work to rectify that problem.’’

That, he said, would get the teacher hired and into the classroom quickly.

Hernando schools are short an average of 39 positions, Maine said. That’s down from an average of 65 positions before he started as full-time recruiter.

Maine plans to be on the road during the peak recruiting season, which starts next month and continues into May. He’ll travel around Florida to job fairs and college campuses, and plans to reach candidates in other states.

“We’ll be able to hopefully get out of state and head up north and try to recruit some snowbirds to come down and enjoy the Florida weather,’’ he said.

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