To try to make sure there's a teacher in every classroom in every Philadelphia public school in the fall, the School District has launched an ambitious new early-hiring strategy.
The goal is to ensure that principals have their teaching staffs chosen by June 30.
"We are looking to hire at least 800 teachers," Kendra Lee-Rosati, the district's acting chief talent officer, said Wednesday.
To fill the posts, the district wants to have 5,000 applications so that it can select from the best candidates.
"We want really good people to apply," said district spokesman Fernando Gallard.
"Great teachers and staff are critical to our focus on building a more equitable system of schools across our city," Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said in a statement. "We are committed to hiring educators and support staff who believe deeply in the potential of all students."
Gallard said the district wants to prevent the problems that occurred last fall, when 190 teaching positions were vacant in October. Many remain unfilled.
Union leaders welcomed the district's effort but questioned whether the goals could be accomplished.
"I believe it's a wonderful theory, but I don't believe that it's something that will be achieved," said Rob McGrogan, head of the principals' union.
"I will say it's a laudable goal, but it is going to be very difficult," agreed Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
He noted that city teachers have not had a raise in four years; their contract expired in August of 2013. And teachers often have to buy classroom supplies.
"It becomes a real issue with recruitment and retention when you have other districts competing for teachers," Jordan said.
Megan MacDonald, the district's manager of institutional and school-based recruitment, said the district is stressing the opportunities to help change students' lives.
The goal, she said, was "helping teachers see past the obstacles and [consider] the role they can play."
The district has received 1,000 applications since the 2016 recruitment drive began in January.
Lee-Rosati said the district is especially interested in candidates for hard-to-staff areas, such as secondary math and science; special education; and bilingual education.
The starting salary for teachers with no experience is $45,360.
Hite and others will speak at an information session for prospective candidates at 4 p.m. Tuesday at district headquarters, 440 N. Broad St.
Applicants are encouraged to meet an early deadline of March 25. Qualified candidates will be eligible for site selection, which begins April 18, when principals and school teams begin choosing staff.
The district also intends to hire nearly 60 nurses and 50 counselors to fulfill a pledge Hite made last week to have a full-time nurse and a counselor in every district school next fall - provided that Gov. Wolf's proposed 2016-17 budget is approved.
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