Hiring and welcoming new teachers is serious business in Loudoun. Home to one of the fastest growing school system’s in the nation, the county has to hire hundreds of new teachers each year to keep up with the thousands of students who move in.
On Friday, Loudoun County Public Schools rolled out the red carpet—literally—at John Champe High School to welcome more than 800 new licensed employees. The school system has become practically famous for its annual orientation rally that’s meant to offer a fun way to kick off the new school year and make sure every new teacher feels at home right from the start.
The fresh hires were invited to walk along a lengthy red carpet to enter the rally. They were greeted with shouts and high-fives from Superintendent Eric Williams, principals and other administrators. The John Champe High School honor band and cheerleading squad did their part to welcome the teachers, blasting pep songs and chanting catchy cheers.
The school system’s Department of Human Resources and Talent Development has invested more in recruiting higher caliber educators in recent years. Last year, for the first time, the School Board created three new positions to specifically focused on recruiting and retaining teachers. They have especially worked to attract more racial minorities and hire for hard-to-fill positions, such as special education and English Language Learner teachers.
Their efforts seem to be paying off.
Williams reported last week that the school system has 56 vacant licensed positions. As of today, vacancies are down to 37, 0.5 percent of the total licensed positions district wide.
“We’re continuing to work on filling those vacancies but were pleased that that is 90 vacancies fewer than the same week last year,” Williams said. “Thank you to principals, budget officers and human resources to help our goal of staffing earlier. Generally, when we fill those vacancies earlier, we get better candidates.”
Fifty-four percent of this year’s new hires hold master’s degrees and one percent hold doctorate degrees.
More than 100 of the new teachers graduated from Loudoun County high schools, and 305 graduated from Virginia colleges and universities. Others graduated from colleges and universities in Pennsylvania (67), Maryland (37), West Virginia (27), New York (25), and Washington, DC (23).
The orientation rally is made possible by donations from 42 local businesses, according to Public Information Officer Wayde Byard. “They donated $266,585 worth of coupons and door prizes to our new teachers,” he said. “This includes everything from teacher supplies to gym memberships offered up by three different local gyms to food coupons for free or discounted food at local restaurants.”
Loudoun County government agencies also took part. Representatives from the Office of Elections attended to help the teachers register to vote; folks from the public libraries offered library cards; and representatives from Housing and Community Development answered questions about the county’s affordable housing program.
The teachers will now prepare to welcome 81,622 students back to school for another year Aug. 24.