The Philadelphia School District plans to hire at least 400 teachers for the 2015-16 school year.
In a district that has spent the last several years closing schools and laying off teachers, that is notable.
Particular areas of need, officials said, are secondary math and science, special education, art, music, and upper elementary school.
In an effort to compete with charter schools and other systems, the district has also changed its application process, shortening the hiring timeline and requiring applicants to submit more information up front.
"We wanted to streamline the way we do hiring of teachers," said Kendra Rosati, the district's director of recruiting. "And we wanted to increase the quality of people. We need to have excellent teachers in front of our kids."
City schools have long been criticized for a cumbersome, opaque hiring process that complicates recruiting teachers in a district where bad news has been the norm. Rosati knows that and said the district was doing all it could to reverse that trend.
In the past, candidates often did not know whether they were even eligible to interview with principals until the summer, well after charter schools and other districts made hiring decisions.
Though the budget situation remains bleak - officials predict a deficit of $80 million, and it is unclear when principals will know exactly how many teachers they can hire for next year - Rosati said the new process meant candidates would know within four to six weeks of applying whether they were eligible to interview for jobs.
The district had been using a cursory online application that did not allow for resumés and cover letters. Those are required now, and would-be teachers will also be asked to submit reference information, a sample lesson plan, and a video of themselves teaching.
"This is a competitive process," Rosati said.
Last year, the district projected it would have about 200 jobs to fill for the start of the 2014-15 school year. It ended up having to fill 400.
Rosati said 400 was now the baseline for the next school year. Most of the 400 will replace teachers who retire or resign.
Much remains up in the air for the district. In addition to the uncertain budget picture, it is unclear whether the School Reform Commission's move to cancel the existing teachers' contract will stick.
The SRC wants teachers to begin paying for part of their health insurance, which it says would save the district more than $50 million annually. Commonwealth Court recently ruled the district cannot cancel contracts, but the district has not yet announced whether it would appeal that decision to the state Supreme Court.
The district currently employs about 8,500 teachers. Starting salary for a new teacher with no experience is $45,360.
Phila. Schools Hiring Teachers
The Philadelphia School District expects to hire 400 teachers for the 2015-16 school year. Vacancies are expected in special education, art, music, secondary math, secondary science, and upper elementary grades.