• email
  • rss
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter

Struggling to Find Staff | Dear Rashida...

Rashida Ladner-Seward

Rashida Ladner-Seward is Director of Program Support at ExpandED Schools. This blog is part of our bi-weekly advice column where we answer burning questions from program directors, educators and administrators on how to develop and run successful expanded learning programs.

Dear Rashida,

A few of my staff recently transitioned into full-time job opportunities and I’m struggling to find quality people to fill the vacancies. I also run a summer camp, so I need to fill these positions soon. Help!

-Stressed & Staffless

Dear Staffless,

You’re not alone! One of the most difficult and enduring challenges of running expanded day programs is staff recruitment and retention. Some programs struggle in this area because they are located in a difficult to reach neighborhood or in a school with widely known challenges. Quite often (not just in our field), applicants apply for positions for which they lack the skills and/or experiences that would make them successful in the role you wish to fill. Perhaps nobody is applying at all. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the ideal person not only has to have the skills, but also needs to demonstrate that they have the right attitude and character to work with children, our most important stakeholders.  Whatever your challenge is, here are some strategies to consider moving forward:

1. Avoid Being in Crisis Mode and Start Early:

Hiring and onboarding takes a long time (especially given all of the related steps with vetting and clearing applicants) so recruitment should never begin at the moment you lose a staff person. For positions like youth workers and group leader, agencies with multiple expanded day programs should post jobs regularly and contact potential partners on a continuous basis. Hiring in our field is an ongoing process, so having a steady stream of applicants to consider is never a bad thing.

2. Expand Your Scope:

Internet platforms like Indeed or Idealist are great starts, but they don’t always attract the segment of applicants we are looking for in our field. Afterschool Pathfinder is a great online resource to post expanded day positions. Also, work with local institutions to get fliers distributed in the places where the community gathers (workforce development agencies, your local library, community centers, coffee shops, etc.). Teaching artists, parents, churchgoers, Girl/Boy Scouts troop leaders, high school students, retirees, paraprofessionals and professionals from other fields are great potential candidates who likely have connections with these local organizations. And don’t forget the people who are right in front of you every day: think about the vacancies you are looking to fill and people who may have skills that are aligned. For instance, if you are looking for somebody to teach poetry, maybe that parent you know who writes poems for the school newsletter or your school nurse who told you about her second life as a spoken word artist is your next poetry specialist!

3. Create a Pipeline:

Formalizing your partnerships with colleges and universities in your area can produce a sustainable flow of applicants: from pre-service teachers to social work students in need of field placements. Build a relationship with education, psychology and social work professors, and visit their classrooms to speak about your work and available opportunities once a semester. You might also want to work with your school to develop a teacher mentoring program where education major students come teach expanded day classes alongside regular school day teachers and receive coaching as they go. A program like this would be highly attractive to colleges and universities.

4. Reconsider Your Job Descriptions:

You know that the job you want to fill is awesome, but does the job description do it justice? If no one is applying, you may not be sending the message that you want. Think about the language you use in your job descriptions and ways to infuse passion and energy into the job responsibilities. It’s not about what you have to do but what you get to do! For example,“staff must submit daily lesson plans” may seem daunting for a prospective applicant while, “create engaging and fun lessons in your area of expertise” may excite that same person. Also, be sure to include information about what a staff person can expect to get out of the role. For example, a person studying to be a teacher would want to know that they will get regular instructional coaching, lesson planning experience, and behavior management training. Seeing these things in a job posting may make them more willing to apply! It is also important to consider and highlight how your job will help applicants move into higher-skilled roles and obtain recognition, credits, degrees and/or credentials. People need to know what’s in it for them and feel excited about it! 

5. Keep Spreading the Word:

Connect with the broader community using social media as a recruitment tool. Be sure to convey enthusiasm about your work and make working in your program sound like the best job on earth! People will remember your passion and spread the word for you. And don’t forget the most powerful tool for recruitment is word of mouth and a good referral. Ask your current staff: “Who do you know that would be a great fit for our program?” Develop a spreadsheet of contacts and use it!

Finding good staff is hard work and it is almost never done. Wishing you success!




♦ Have a question? Send it to info@expandedschools.org with “Dear Rashida” in the subject line. Be sure to check back each week for a nugget of wisdom.



Subscribe to Blog
Blog Archive