During a rare joint meeting of all eight Verde Valley school districts, Sedona-Oak Creek School District Superintendent David Lykins admitted that a recent trip to recruit graduating teachers at four Michigan universities resulted in little progress.
The meeting, Thursday, April 28 at Mingus Union High School, convened superintendents, administrators and board members from SOCSD, Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District, Mingus Union High School District, Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District, Clarkdale-Jerome School District, Camp Verde Unified School District, Beaver Creek School District and Valley Academy for Career and Technology Education.
The recruitment trip, made possible through a $25,000 grant from the Forest Fees Management Association, occurred during the week of April 11 through 15. Lykins was accompanied by former CJSD Superintendent Kathleen Fleenor and COCSD Human Resources Director Rebecca Wilson.
“You may ask, ‘Why Michigan?’” Fleenor said, adding that her own research into the matter had led her to believe that the state produced high-quality education majors and held the potential to help grow the Verde Valley districts’ ranks.
As the recruitment team soon discovered, many other school districts have become wise to this rationale.
“What we immediately noticed is that we weren’t alone from Arizona,” Lykins said. By his estimation, there were over a dozen school districts from Arizona at one university’s recruitment event alone. Districts from other states swelled the ranks of recruiters, extending completely around the outside wall of the university’s hosting stadium. “There were fewer graduates than people recruiting .... There were hundreds and hundreds of recruiters.”
“Now everybody is going to Michigan to recruit,” Fleenor added.
Looking to the future, Lykins said that Verde Valley’s districts would have to modify their approach to long-distance recruitment. He praised the team’s effort, saying that the contacts made with university education directors might prove invaluable, but also noted that “more rural” colleges and universities would likely be the target for finding teachers in the near term.
“This was a long-term investment at no cost to the district,” Lykins said. “We had some opportunity to create a pipeline to nurture going forward.”
Yavapai County Superintendent of Schools Tim Carter, the meeting’s keynote speaker, lamented perceptions that districts had wasted money on the recruitment effort.
“There aren’t enough education graduates in Arizona to meet the demand,” Carter said, adding that the situation for the state’s schools becomes even more dire when one considers the wage some U.S. districts offer new teachers. “I’ve heard as high as $65,000 .... I don’t think the public understands that. It’s our job to inform them.”
Carter informed the gathered district representatives that the state education budget has yet to be approved.
“I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “I don’t know when we’re going to get a budget .... We thought we’d be done with it by Easter.”
Carter said that the legislature is defined by ideology, and that this hard-line approach to governance has led to “everybody just building these little boxes” where stances cannot be negotiated. As a result, practical concerns for the state’s children are lost.
“At this point, it’s what we can get passed,” Carter concluded.