Kansas City, February 13, 2020: A handful of small, blue cards represent a big part of the future of Kansas City Public Schools.
KCPS hosted its annual Teacher, Counselor and Administrator Career Fair Saturday morning, Feb. 8 at the Board of Education building in midtown Kansas City, Mo. About 200 public educators from across the region and nation met with principals, other school leaders and district administrators and made their case for joining Team KCPS.
A select group of these applicants were given blue business cards that allowed them to go to the next step in the process: in-depth interviews with specialists from the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development division. The ultimate goal of the event was to ensure that KCPS is fully staffed with top-flight teachers when classes start this fall, according to Chief Human Resources Officer Jennifer Collier.
“The primary goal here is to ensure that we have the highest quality teachers for our students,” Dr. Collier said. “We offer blue cards for those we believe would be good candidates for our schools. We get them early contracts. That ensures that we have quality teachers in our classrooms.”
During the initial round of interviews, many of the principals and other school leaders in the room were asking questions aimed at elements more intangible than just classroom skills. Administrators work hard to create a culture and climate that enhances the school’s overall vision, mission and values, according to Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School Principal Dana-Mae Abram. Events like the career fair give school leaders like Ms. Abram a unique opportunity to delve into that side of a teacher.
“We want people who can relate to kids, but also understand that we have high expectations for students, regardless of any kind of baggage that they bring,” Abram said. “They understand that all kids can learn, with no reservations. They also have the ability to build and maintain positive relationships with students at all costs, no matter what they come with, no matter who they are, no matter what their family life is like. They are able to see kids as kids.”
KCPS Talent Acquisition and Evaluation Manager Monica Landess conceived of, planned and ran the career fair. She was busy but happy keeping the event running smoothly with a large turnout and walk-ins arriving for unscheduled interviews.
“It’s been a very successful day,” Ms. Landess said. “Our main goals are to find candidates who are high flyers for us, and to be able to move them forward with us when we have positions that we know are available for them to be hired.”
KCPS has become a career destination of choice for public educators across the region and state thanks to events like the career fair and a new, positive perception of the school system, according to Collier.
“The perception of KCPS has definitely shifted,” Collier said. “More people are wanting to be a part of our work. It’s definitely a team effort in changing that narrative and shifting that perspective.”
Collier pointed out that KCPS had fewer than eight unfilled teaching positions at the start of the current academic year.
“That’s unheard of in many urban school systems,” she said. “When I first came into HR, we would have anywhere from 40 to 50 vacancies at the start. Over the last few years, we’ve decreased that number. We’ll see how we fare this year, but to be under 10 vacancies at the start of the year is amazing.”