Recent reports in The New York Times caused a minor sensation in the education community by revealing that, according to a study by the State Education Department, a number of school districts in New York regularly pay their top teachers salaries of $100,000 or more. Median salaries in such districts, many of which are located in exclusive Westchester County, can range from $75,000 to $98,000 a year.
The obvious question for job seekers: What do these premium districts look for in a teacher?
In the 7,000-student White Plains district, one of the top-paying New York systems, the answer is a mixture of experience and a diverse set of applicable credentials, Lenora Boehlert, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, told edweek.org in a recent phone interview.
Boehlert said the district is particularly interested in teachers with multiple areas of certification—for example, in elementary education and reading or special education. A master’s degree is clearly plus, if not virtually an expectation. Also desirable are experience and training in working with diverse student populations, especially English-language learners, Boehlert said.
Not surprisingly, candidates for White Plains teaching positions are put through a rigorous selection process. From the approximately 400 applications submitted for a typical elementary school position, Boehlert explained, some 80 might make it through a “pre-screening” sifting. Those 80 are then evaluated by a committee of administrators and narrowed down to approximately 25 who are invited in to interview with a “full committee” of administrators, teachers, and parents.
In the committee interviews, candidates are asked a battery of questions on working with special needs students, literacy development, dealing with parents, and their instructional strategies. They are also given various classroom scenarios and asked how they would respond.
Top candidates must give a demonstration lesson and, regardless of their field, provide a writing sample. The writing sample is not a mere formality, Boehlert emphasized. It is used to gauge whether the candidate can communicate—with parents, for example—skillfully and on a professional level. White Plains teachers are expected to be “excellent representatives” of the district, Boehlert said.
Given its emphasis on experience and its wealth of applicants, White Plains is more likely—in most cases—to hire veterans than new teachers right out of school, Boehlert said. However, it does have a “grow-your-own” program in which individuals hired as teachers aides are developed into fully credentialed teachers—presumably on their way to that $100,000 mark.