Changing the Mindset Community of Opportunity: Part 3
It's a sunny afternoon in late August. Gary students are not back in school yet, but teachers are returning from their own summer break. Adults drift in through the doors at Gary's West Side Leadership Academy, spot their friends and colleagues and rush in for a hug – just like it probably was when they were in high school. Small groups start to form, congregating around folding tables stacked with snacks and bottled water.
One young woman leans against a wall by herself, looking over a sheet of paper with her weekly schedule written on it. There are a handful of people just like her dotting the outskirts of the room, singles not joining in the hugs & the "welcome back's" around the coffee table: the new teachers.
The young woman's name is Lauren Moore – this will be her first year teaching in the Gary Community School Corporation. It will also be her first year teaching. She will head a class of kindergarteners at the Bethune Early Childhood Development Center.
"My aunt taught in Gary for 37 years and my uncle, he subbed for Gary for 12 years, and they both retired last year," Moore explains. "When I went to their retirement banquet, they announced, ‘hey we have a lot of job positions opening. If you know anybody who can fill those positions let them know.’ So I started moving in this direction."
"My aunt always says really nice things about it," Moore relays. "If she stayed there for 37 years, it must be a pretty good place to work!"
Moore’s aunt fits what’s been the typical profile for Gary’s teaching force: they stick around.
GCSC Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt says she’s excited about adding members of the next generation of teachers.
"We did have an aged teaching staff – I think that because Gary was on top so long, they forgot to plan and keep moving," Pruitt says. "You got to get out of what you think and what you been doing for 40 years and we gotta move over here, or else you need to go home."
So, like many things in the Gary Community School Corporation, the district's teaching force is changing. For the first time in 20 or 30 years, a big group of Gary’s teachers are moving on, creating openings for new blood. While the rest of the state struggles with a teacher shortage, we don’t know what that will look like in Gary. One has to wonder: with the way the district and its city have been struggling, how much talent will they actually be able to recruit?
Pruitt is encouraging people to move on – and if they don’t, she’s training them to be better. And she’s bringing in a nationally recognized development group, the International Center for Leadership in Education, to help those remaining come up with new strategies, to get out of the habits they may have been stuck in for years.