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Wanted: a ‘moving and shaking team’

District works to recruit teachers, staff in many departments

Grand Rapids — From competitive salaries to advancement opportunities, educators and administrators worked to fill 250 job vacancies by showcasing what the district has to offer potential employees during a job fair Wednesday. 

Adriana Almanza, GRPS’ talent development, retention and diversity recruitment manager, said the district is made up of employees with the common mission of “serving our scholars,” and more are needed to build the team. 

“No matter if you are a custodian or a food-service worker, or you’re in HR or are an administrator or teacher, all of our focus really is on that scholar,” she said. 

Representatives from several GRPS departments met with applicants for open jobs during the fair at GRPS University. Hardest-to-fill positions include special education and math teachers, custodians, and food-service and childcare workers, but they’ve made steady progress over the last three months since starting August with 400 vacancies, Almanza said. 

From left, Rukshana Ilahi, executive director of special education, Tina Watson, director of professional learning and Anja Lusk, assistant superintendent of human resources and general counsel share information with job applicants

The district holds three job fairs each year for people who pre-register or apply onsite. About 60 applicants received job offers after attending a July fair. 

Like many industries, education has faced staff shortages, which impact everyone in a district and lead to staff members wearing many hats out of necessity. In GRPS, employees are going above and beyond, but that can lead to burnout, Almanza said.

“We’ve had administrators being pulled from full-time duties to be in the classroom or cover recess duty. We’ve had a shortage of subs as well.”

Numerous Recruitment Efforts

District leaders are making several efforts to find diverse candidates that reflect GRPS’ diverse student population, including a third trip to Puerto Rico in March to recruit teachers. This spring, they plan to visit historically Black colleges and universities, as well as those with large Hispanic populations, to interview students graduating from teacher education programs. 

‘One of the things that is invigorating is … hearing and being able to engage in new conversations and see what they have to offer to our scholars.’

– Tina Watson, director of professional learning

GRPS is also increasing their digital marketing and advertising, Almanza said, as well as financial incentives to apply. For teachers, the district offers a $1,000 sign-on bonus and help with relocation costs. Lowest-paid positions have increased in the past year as well, from $12 per hour to $15.

Rosie Holmes, left, director of the office of extended learning, and Bryanna Pickett, Loop program director, offer information on childcare and tutoring jobs

New teachers and those new to the district are joining a supportive team, said Director of Professional Learning Tina Watson. She oversees the induction program for new teachers, which includes training, professional development and other supports.

“One of the things that is invigorating is seeing potential new talent and hearing and being able to engage in new conversations and see what they have to offer to our scholars,” Watson said. “It’s also an opportunity for us to invest in them.”

Maggie Malone, GRPS director of fine arts and shared time, said she was eager to share with applicants the pros of working in the district. 

“It’s a really great opportunity for people to find work that is meaningful,” Malone said. “We are excited to talk to anyone who is part of a moving and shaking team. And we are fun, fun, fun.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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