What Schools Want and What Schools Need: Mind the Gap | Greg Martin | 8 Min Read

February 22, 2023

The world couldn’t be more different in early 2023 than anyone could have planned for. As such, many of the “strategic plans” hatched in 2018 or 2019 are now fairly out of touch. Much has been written as of late on “What teachers want” or “What teachers need”, but little has been said about the needs and wants of schools as we approach hiring season 2023. The overall labor market remains firmly on the side of job seekers, with more jobs posted than people searching according to the most recent number from the Department of Labor. As well, the flexibility being seen on the side of employers with regard to work arrangements, hours, pay, and sign-on bonuses demonstrates that workers and job seekers are clearly in the driver’s seat when it comes to bargaining power.

Given the financial model independent schools operate on coupled with the “fixed” mode of work completion, schools have less ability to adapt and address the demands of workers than private industries do. While some schools have taken to offering bonuses (Independent School Job Boards) and increasing starting salaries, overall, independent schools simply can’t compete when it comes to remote work, flexible hours, or significant increases in salaries as expected by the jobseekers of today. To be fair, the job market is likely due for a correction, but much of the toothpaste is already out of the tube. It is imperative that schools begin rectifying areas that are out of sync with the greater job market and overall economy if they are to thrive in the coming years.

What Schools Want

I often refer to this endeavor as finding a unicorn, but it is logical when seen from the perspective of a school. Parents are paying tuition for their children to enroll and expect a certain level of service for those tuition dollars. Yes, the tuition discount rate is a thing, but both the perception and reality are that parents are paying customers. As such, schools must recruit, hire, train, and retain faculty that add to the programs and fill staffing needs in a given year. If an AP Calculus class is part of the curriculum then there must be a teacher qualified to teach at that level. To add to the challenge, that AP Calculus teacher might also be expected to coach, advise a club, or lead an activity. And,…

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Greg Martin

Greg grew up in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, and attended the Peddie School, playing football and lacrosse. Greg graduated from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, with a BA in Political Science. He then earned his MA in European History from Western Connecticut State University and his Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy from Drexel University. Greg continues to research, write, and present on staffing models in American boarding schools. His work has been featured in the National Association of Independent Schools magazine. Greg is a regular presenter at the annual The Association of Boarding Schools Conference. Greg has also been a guest on the Enrollment Management Association's podcast several times and has contributed to The Trustees Letter on two occasions. Greg serves on the advisory board for the Independent School MA program at Mount Holyoke College. Greg currently serves as the Humanities Chair at Vermont Academy.