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Talent Wins at Seton Catholic Schools

By Guest Blogger — November 15, 2017 1 min read
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This week, our guest blogger is Dr. Bill Hughes, the Chief Academic Officer for Seton Catholic Schools in Milwaukee. Bill has been engaged in K-12 education policy and leadership for over thirty years and is the former superintendent of Greendale School District in the Milwaukee suburbs.

“We will be a net-exporter of talent for the city of Milwaukee.”

You don’t hear a lot of traditional school leaders rally around this phrase, but when my colleague Don Drees, the President of Seton Catholic Schools, first articulated this vision, I was all in.
Developing new educators and growing the knowledge, skills, and impact of our experienced educators and non-instructional staff are some of the key levers of our transformational model for urban Catholic education in Milwaukee. In fact, our bold mission statement calls us to transform the lives of educators, in addition to our students and families. Beyond our schools, we are committed to growing and diversifying Milwaukee’s teacher pipeline as a way to strengthen our entire community.

In just 18 months, our team and partners have come together to make significant changes to the career development opportunities available to educators in our schools—and attracting hundreds of new candidates for both teaching and leadership roles. This work is led by Adam Schmidt, Seton’s director of talent development and strategy, who previously worked on Teach for America’s national recruitment team and was an education advocacy fellow at 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. Adam has prepared the following thoughts to highlight some of the progress we have made toward our talent vision for Catholic education and Milwaukee:

On a recent Monday afternoon, as a long school day stretched into the darkness of a fall evening, Mr. Larry Kartz was holding the attention of a few dozen teachers as they rotated through his center on cultivating growth mindsets among elementary students. Sharing anecdotes from his career—and easily implementable resources—Larry was helping teachers to grow and indirectly impacting hundreds of students around Milwaukee. This is the power of a collaborative school network. At Seton Catholic Schools, our talent vision hinges on our ability to support all educators to achieve our vision for students—that all eighth graders are academically and spiritually prepared for high school and beyond. This requires investing in our people through aligned, high-quality professional development, coaching, and feedback systems—and rethinking the traditional teacher career path. In the standalone parochial school model, there are significant constraints on career advancement. You can either be a classroom teacher or the sole principal. Oftentimes, the only way to "move up" is to move out of the school and into a leadership position elsewhere. As a network of schools, we are building career advancement opportunities to keep devoted teachers within their school while increasing their impact beyond a single classroom. And now, that's Larry's story. Larry is in his third decade of teaching physical education and health in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. He is deeply committed to his school community, has coached athletics and taught religion, and is an engaging teacher with excellent lesson-planning skills. Throughout his career, he has positively affected the lives of thousands of students, one class at a time. But now, as a Master Teacher in our network, Larry can influence the education of thousands of students across the city in one school year. Master Teacher: We initiated our Master Teacher role late last school year to distinguish our most skilled classroom teachers. This role is for educators that are looking to make a career as a classroom teacher and are generally not interested in becoming a dean or principal. Master Teachers at Seton Catholic Schools continue to lead their own classroom, but also have responsibility for multiple classrooms through coaching and directing the daily development of a Resident Teacher. Through coaching and professional development, Master Teachers help reduce the amount of time it takes for new teachers and Resident Teachers to reach proficiency. Master Teachers are also part of their school leadership team and are compensated at a higher level. We are also committed to developing new educators for our schools and our city, having launched two programs to grow and diversify our teacher pipeline—an Assistant to Teacher program and the Seton Teacher Residency. Education Assistant to Teacher: Seton employs close to 30 Education Assistants (EAs) across our 12 schools. Many are members of the local school and parish community and represent the ethnicity of the students in the schools. They have strong relationships with students and families and add significant value to school culture and student life. While many are strong educators, they often face financial and other barriers to advancing their career and becoming a licensed teacher. This scenario is not unique to Seton—our partners across the district, charter, and private school landscape reported similar challenges facing their EAs. This realization led to the development of Project INVEST at Concordia University of Wisconsin. Project INVEST is a flexible, urban-focused preparation program to help EAs achieve an associate's and/or bachelor's degree and teaching license within 2-4 years. They will remain on the job in our schools, applying their new knowledge and skills. This is a truly transformational program: Each participant will improve their ability to support their family; the community will be strengthened; and students will be taught by more teachers representing their ethnicity. Seton Teacher Residency: We are also investing in the development of new educators through the Seton Teacher Residency Program. Teacher Residents are recruited for their leadership, mission-alignment, and ability to learn "on the job" as an apprentice under a Master Teacher, while participating in an accelerated graduate licensing program at Cardinal Stritch University. After the one-year residency, these teachers will shift into lead teacher roles in 2018-19. We built the Residency based on the research-backed best practices from such programs as the Relay GSE-Noble Network Resident, Match Teacher Residency, and the Loyola School for Education apprenticeship model. Not only do we anticipate Residents will make an immediate and lasting impact for student achievement, but they will remain in the classroom longer than the teacher workforce at-large. According to the National Center for Teacher Residencies, 71 percent of residency participants remain in the classroom after five years—compared to only half of traditionally-prepared teachers. At Seton Catholic Schools, we know talent development will be our differentiator for students, families and educators. We respect the teaching profession and its important role in our communities and society. We are committed to developing all teachers and honoring effective teaching with meaningful opportunities for career advancement and family-sustaining pay. By thinking differently and working together, we are transforming careers in Catholic education.

Dr. Bill Hughes

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.