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PBS’s commitment to exceptional teaching • ENGAGE for Jan. 11, 2018

Scott Erickson, Head of School

ENGAGE is the newsletter of the Head of School. His message to parents is reproduced here.

My team and I are doing everything we can to attract, retain, and support teaching talent. Exceptional teaching is key to our success, and it's also important for students to experience a connection – even a bond – to their teachers. These connections give rise to a positive learning environment and classroom experience – and are why it can feel heartbreaking when your child's beloved teacher leaves PBS, for whatever reason. It is also difficult that there are many factors in faculty turnover that we cannot control. This article outlines our goals, data analysis, and plan to ensure your children are learning from the best-possible teaching professionals. 

First, though, I'd like to highlight two new initiatives:

  • We are recruiting for a restructured position, Assistant Head for Advancement and Strategy, who will develop new strategic initiatives and lead our integrated approach to fundraising, marketing, and community relations. Please send excellent candidates my way.
  • PBS values high-quality teamwork, so here's an Organizational Design (available after logging into the Community Portal) to boost clarity on our organizational relationships and to make visible the various responsibilities, decision-making rights, and reporting structures at PBS.

The Importance of Teachers

Research has shown that students report optimal engagement and learning when teachers are passionate, care about them in and out of the classroom, change activities throughout a class period, and create lively discussions and discovery-oriented or group projects. More than ever, students need teachers who are thinking, planning, and acting collaboratively to ensure predictability and support in school routines.

Teacher Retention

Goal: Annual retention target is 82% or better among lead teachers and specialists.

  • Teacher departures are not on the rise: Faculty retention has been close to or better than target since 2011, with one spike during that period, in 2016.
  • Top-three reasons for teacher departures since 2011: Work closer to home, retirement, and family reasons/opportunity out of the area.
  • Retention trends at Bay Area independent schools: Persistent cost-of-living challenges, increasing retirements from among the Baby Boomers, longer commutes related to where teachers can afford to live, and marked rise in teacher turnover (both planned and last-minute surprises).

Bottom line: PBS is committed to top-notch compensation, benefits, and professional development to retain our teaching talent.

Team Development and Support

Goal: High-quality professional teaching community that encourages and enables teachers to be their best – a strong workplace culture

  • Five characteristics of a strong workplace culture in independent schools:
    1. Teachers know the "why" so they can drive toward a common purpose
    2. Student-centered
    3. Reflective, higher-level engagement on teaching practice
    4. Growth-focused faculty
    5. Continually adapts, changes, and improves
  • PBS is at the top of our peers in these areas: Resourcing professional development; support from outside experts; teacher leadership and participation in program growth and new initiatives through the Curriculum Deep Dive and PBSi programs
  • We ask faculty and staff to share anonymous feedback on our workplace culture through annual surveys and third-party exit interviews. The results help me identify focus areas and improvement initiatives.

Bottom line: PBS is committed to being the best place to work in the Bay Area.

Recruiting Talent, Experience, and Diversity

Goal: Hiring exceptional teachers when others depart

  • Recruitment is more and more complex and time-consuming: Challenges of attracting diverse candidates, attracting teachers to our expensive area, time and cost for recruitment, community impact when beloved teachers leave, and now requires a year-round effort where it was previously a focus only from March to June
  • Since 2011, we have been successful in attracting experienced faculty to join our team, so expertise depth has been strong in addition to a new generation of talented teachers we have hired.
  • We know the importance of a diverse faculty and staff to ensure an increasingly strong team. It's important, for example, for students to see their own backgrounds and experiences reflected among the adults working with them.
  • We are working on two areas in particular:
  • Expanding ethnic and racial diversity among faculty and staff (currently 36%)
  • Increasing the number of men among faculty and staff (currently 30%)
  • Challenge facing all independent schools: The recruitment pool is less diverse than we'd like, despite our best, aggressive efforts working with a variety of resources.
  • We have increased resourcing for our Associate Teacher Program, which we revamped three years ago. I am proud that this program has been an excellent training ground and recruitment pool for talented new faculty.

Bottom line: PBS is committed to having a diverse faculty that balances experience with a new generation of talent.

Thank you for supporting our teachers!

Scott Erickson has been Head of School at PBS since 2011. In that time, he has focused on curriculum growth, faculty support and professional development, expanding parent and community relationships, partnering with the board to strengthen the school’s financial position, and developing and implementing the school’s Strategic Action Plan. Scott enjoys reading, public speaking, projects at home, exercise, traveling, and time with family, friends, and pets.

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