Staffing the Boston Public Schools

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Staffing the Boston Public Schools

Factors Shaping the Boston Public School’s Staffing Practices
There were several factors that contributed to the staffing practices of the Boston Public School system. The first of these factors was the seniority based transfer rules that allowed veteran teachers who wanted to transfer between schools first bid on posted vacancies. This practice was later amended in the mid- 1980s so that three permanent teachers were able to apply to any open position. The principle was then able to select from the three senior applicants thereby allowing the principal to have more control in staffing. Senior teachers were also allowed to place a “blind bid” on a school even if there was no immediate openings. This practice was eliminated during the 1997 to 2000 teacher’s contract. These seniority based transfers also allowed veteran teachers the ability to “bump” provisional teachers from open positions. Provisional teachers were new teachers who only had annual appointments and did not become permanent teachers until after their third year of satisfactory service. The practice of “bumping” provisional teachers was later amended in 2000 contract agreement.

The second factor was that delays in approving state or local budgets which meant that the schools were not able to finalize staffing allocations and offer contracts and positions to teachers until late July or early August when most qualified applicants had already accepted positions elsewhere. For instance in 2003 when the city experienced reductions in proposed state aid BPS officials had to recalculate staffing allocations while also cutting 10% from each school’s overall budget which ultimately led to BPS loosing 400 teaching positions.

The third factor was the human resource system in the BPS was old, bureaucratic and dysfunctional. The human resource department in essence was unable to efficiently manage the hiring and transfer process in an efficient manner. The BPS human resource department worked in what was called in the article as “silo structures” which meant that they were isolated from other parts of the school system. The department also had poor data collection abilities and an utter lack of modern technology which hindered the department’s ability to manage the staffing needs of the BPS schools.

The last factor that shaped BPS’s staffing practices was that low performing schools failed to recruit and retain strong teachers. However Barbara McGann, the new human resource director hired in late 2003, felt that teachers did avoid low performing schools rather they avoided miserable or inept principals. She felt that since the state designation of a low performing school was an arbitrary standard and that teachers focused more on the principal’s relationship with the staff as well as the physical locations of the school, the quality of the physical building and in some cases even the parking.

The BPS Key Players
The key players of this case are the Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant, who was appointed in 1995 and with his team had worked to create a culture of continuous improvement and high performance. He did this by several initiatives such as adopting a more challenging school curriculum and by defining clear goals and establishing a system of professional development. His first initiative was called “Focus on Children” which was a 5 year for reform which was renewed in 2000. The six essentials of the of the “Focus on Children” initiative were providing effective instruction, evaluating student work to drive instruction and professional development, investing in professional of the BPS teachers to improve instruction, sharing leadership, refocusing resources to support instructional improvement and student learning and lastly partnering with the families and community to assist student learning.

Barbara McGann was the newly hired human resources director hired in late 2003. She...
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