Superintendent Insider: Specialized For Success
  • Our People, Our Success: Attracting Talent to SSD

    Posted by Dr. Elizabeth Keenan on 1/12/2022

    Happy 2022 SSD! I hope you rang in the new year healthy, happy, and well-rested. As many do at the start of the new year, SSD is looking toward our future and taking a closer look at the past year. Once again, we were evaluating a challenging year in which COVID-19 has continued to impact our work. As school districts pivoted from a school start in which we were feeling more confident to a December which looked sadly familiar, all who work in education were relying heavily on their patience, their flexibility, and their commitment to kids. 

    The pandemic’s impact on staffing has been felt nationwide. A recent Education Week poll of school administrators found that 52% reported staff shortages were more severe now than they were just 4 months ago. And districts are finding it difficult to fill critical positions on which so many staff depend. 

    Realizing our mission is made more challenging when these critical positions are vacant. And so, we put a magnifying glass on our recruitment strategies and hiring processes over the last several months to ensure we are doing all we can to attract and retain talented staff during this national crisis. Here are some of the things we’ve been working on:

    • Launched a collaborative effort, guided by employee feedback, to overhaul the hiring process for key positions.
    • Rebranded all recruitment efforts to highlight SSD employment benefits and intrinsic rewards.
    • Embraced new recruitment tools (Indeed, digital advertising, etc.) and developed a response plan to inquiries on those platforms.
    • Incorporated DESE opportunities for training and support to assist recruitment efforts (ex. Developing Teacher Aides Apprenticeship to Para program).
    • Utilized existing District Chamber of Commerce memberships to advertise openings.
    • Applied for DESE grant support to recruit new talent.
    • Ongoing reconstruction of “Working at SSD” pages on the website.

    I’m happy to report that our efforts are paying off. Since August, we have reduced our paraprofessional vacancies by approximately 100 (and welcome to all of the new paras who have joined us this year!). Additionally, both our bus driver and bus monitor vacancies are decreasing and we have a healthy pool of applicants for each of these positions. We regularly monitor the success of our strategies and adapt them as needed.

    We are gearing up for recruitment activities as the season for job fairs and college visits is upon us. But as we look toward meeting and welcoming new hires, I want to personally thank all of our staff for staying with us. Their work in SSD makes a tremendous difference to our stakeholders - and most importantly, to our students. Thank you!

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  • Even SSD Governance is Specialized

    Posted by Dr. Elizabeth Keenan on 12/6/2021

    For more than a half-century, Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) has been making a difference in students' lives. The District annually educates more than 24,000 students who receive a range of special education services or career and technical education. 

    SSD relies heavily on other local school districts to ensure that the unique educational needs of students in St. Louis County are met. Although this cross-district collaboration takes place on many levels, one of its most visible manifestations is SSD’s Governing Council. 

    Formed in 1996, the Governing Council is a 22-person oversight board consisting of one Board of Education member from each of St. Louis County’s 22 public school districts. The Governing Council reviews and approves the District’s annual budget, reviews and approves a five-year rolling strategic plan for the District, and interviews and elects the members of the SSD Board of Education.

    SSD’s Board of Education consists of seven members, with each member representing a subdistrict based on the student population of our partner districts. With the passage of Proposition S in 1998, SSD Board of Education members are elected by the Governing Council, not by popular vote.

    As a governmental body, the SSD Board of Education holds monthly business meetings and regular work session meetings. Board members are responsible for studying, evaluating, and, after due consideration, voting in the best interest of all students. The key responsibilities of the Board are to review and approve the District’s annual budget, review and approve the District’s long-range plan, hire and evaluate SSD’s superintendent, serve as a liaison with subdistricts, and evaluate and set District policy.

    An annual Board election is held in March. Board members serve three-year overlapping terms, with two or three members elected each year. Board members, who receive no compensation for their service to the District, are committed and concerned citizens who devote countless hours working on behalf of children and the educational interests of SSD stakeholders.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has said that education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Our system of local school districts and boards of education epitomizes representative and participatory government - citizens elected from our community making decisions about educational programs based on community needs, values, and expectations.  Boards of education not only represent the public, but also translate the needs of students into policies, plans, and goals that will be supported by the community.

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