Navigator Blog

Building a People System: How Anthony Wayne Local Schools Reinvented Hiring to Shape Future-Ready Graduates

February 28, 2024

When school districts work with Battelle for Kids to create a Portrait of a Graduate, they are pledging to bring together varied perspectives to transform and deepen the learning experience for their community’s young people.

But how do they go about delivering on this commitment?

At Anthony Wayne Local Schools near Toledo, Ohio, leaders made intentional efforts to find, grow, and keep talented staff members who could help advance the district toward its promise of preparing future-ready students.

Historically, Anthony Wayne (AWLS) was able to rely on its reputation alone to attract plenty of job candidates across all positions. But like many districts in recent years, they began seeing fewer applicants. Clearly, a future-ready instructional vision would need to be supported by an equally evolved approach to hiring.

By leveraging strategies from BFK’s intensive HumanCapital21 Essentials training, AWLS focused on recruitment and retention of quality candidates, with the understanding that every adult in the system is integral in creating an educational experience that prepares students to succeed.

Jim Fritz, Ed.D., who is in his 14th year as AWLS superintendent, said the district developed its human capital plan in the 2021-2022 school year, two years after Anthony Wayne launched its Portrait of a General.

“We knew we needed a focused, ever-evolving human capital plan, which is why we engaged in an ongoing professional learning cohort experience as a team,” he said.

Six principals and some central office staff dedicated four days to working with Battelle for Kids to reassess the AWLS human capital system. From this work, the district radically revamped its approach to recruitment, beefed up onboarding procedures, and engaged with new hires from day one.

“Our SOAR Network team went through training that leads us to align, find, grow, and keep staff,” Fritz said. “Not only do we secure the staff we already have and retain them, but we use these strategies to find new staff, whether it be a food service worker, a bus driver or teacher.”

The district created brand ambassador videos as recruitment tools, interviewing current bus drivers, food service workers, and custodial staff about their job responsibilities. These videos live on the district’s employment webpage for all potential applicants to see.

And once they are brought on board, cohorts of new hires meet four to five times per year with district leaders. At these gatherings, staffers may do a physical or a motivational activity, designed to build connection with each other. Each meet-up is designed to check in with new hires, and to hear the “roses and thorns” of their work experience to date, according to Assistant Superintendent Kevin Herman.

“We’ve tried to make sure that when we recognize they are struggling, we ask how we can help with whatever concern they have,” he said. “We do that intentionally so they can share that with us, and so that we can give them assistance in that area.”

Participants in the Anthony Wayne New Teaches Cohort.

Supporting established staff members – along with these new hires – is integral to building the supportive learning environment AWLS strives for.

“We see the research that teachers are feeling overwhelmed,” Herman said. “It comes back to making sure we have a positive culture in all of our buildings and departments and helping people treat each other professionally.”

Acting with purpose when hiring helps build a robust “people system,” and corrects a shortcoming found far too often in school districts, said Tony Bagshaw, chief learning officer at Battelle for Kids.

“Every school district has people systems. But some of them are broken,” he said. “In most districts there are no recruiting practices. Their recruiting practices are ‘We post the job.’”

Districts that invest time and money in improving their hiring like AWLS find they are more easily able to deliver on the brand promise that is their Portrait of a Graduate, Bagshaw said.

“We’re inviting districts to make a different bet. You have bet on curriculum. You have bet on professional learning. You’ve bet on data, testing, and accountability,” he said. “We’re inviting districts to bet on the people. And if you attract, hire, and engage talent, all of the other stuff you care about is going to happen.”

Battelle for Kids’ People & Culture services is an innovative suite of offerings that provides the tools you need to move your people systems forward. Our People & Culture work is focused on meeting the comprehensive people system needs of school districts across the country. Learn more about how we can help.