With the holiday season behind us and school starting in a matter of days, administrators will begin the task of assembling hiring needs for the upcoming year. Some schools have formal processes in place to ask faculty about plans for the upcoming year, some schools stick to an informal "ask" method. I prefer the former for several reasons. First, it makes it clear to faculty that the school is beginning the hiring season and wants to know who is planning for a possible change. Second, a formal process allows a more quantifiable data set from which to build a hiring needs matrix. As we know, this is a tricky step for boarding schools. Third, many faculty have not thought in earnest about plans for their future, and this concrete "ask" can nudge people to action.
Some faculty members are mulling over graduate school. Some are looking for new opportunities with regard to leadership. Some are experiencing life changes that may necessitate a move. Some are just testing the waters. By formally asking faculty members about their intentions for the upcoming year, schools are not only working towards addressing their staffing needs but assisting faculty members in doing some introspective thought with regard to their careers. By being pro-active, schools can use this formal process to start conversations with faculty members that can be constructive to both parties. Schools can have a better sense of needs for the upcoming year while getting a snapshot of faculty morale and culture based on data regarding who is planning to leave or look. If a large number of faculty members are "leaving" or "looking", schools need to ask "why" in an honest manner. This would be a good time for a full staffing assessment and look "under the hood" at the overall culture of the school.
Are duty schedules over burdensome? Is there a sense of inequity in duty? Are younger faculty leaving at a high rate? Is there a particular department that is seeing turnover? Is there an entrenched older administration and a bottleneck with regard to career advancement? All of these questions can be answered via surveys and focus groups and this data can have a significant impact on how schools hire, who they hire, and how they utilize their faculty.
A complicating factor in the hiring season is timing. Many schools are now releasing contracts or letters of intent far earlier than in the past, with some expecting returned contracts/letters in February. Since most hiring fairs do not occur until later winter or very early spring, teachers are pressured into either looking earlier or signing a contract while still actively searching. This presents problems for both parties and is something schools should work to avoid. More on this topic later.
Let the season begin!