Principals given more latitude in hiring, but only in the Bronx

Teaching jobs in the Bronx have been so slow to fill that the city today released many from year-old hiring restrictions.

The Department of Education informed Bronx principals this morning that they are now free to hire English, chemistry, math, social studies, and science teachers from outside the current teaching corps. In other boroughs, a hiring freeze in place since May 2009 require principals to fill most vacancies with teachers who are already working in the system.

When Ramon Gonzalez, the principal of MS 223 in the South Bronx, heard about the change, he snapped up four teachers in six minutes.

Gonzalez said he had been holding off on hiring from within the system because none of the 40 teachers he had interviewed met MS 223’s exacting standards. Plus, he already had four strong candidates ready to sign on with the school the moment he could offer them jobs.

Two of the English and social studies teachers had worked in temporary positions at MS 223 last year, one as a substitute and the other as an intern. Another wanted to move to a city school from the suburbs. And the last was coming off a stint as teacher trainer at Teachers College. Gonzalez had been stringing them along all summer, even offering them part-time work in hopes that they’d wait out the hiring freeze.

Gonzalez knew that if he lost out on the four teachers, he wouldn’t be able to find others. MS 223’s South Bronx location deters many applicants, he said, so he had been badgering the DOE’s human resources office for months to relax the rules for hard-to-staff schools like his.

“Today my calls have been answered,” he said.

“They could have pooh-poohed [my concerns] but they understood they had to do something different” in the Bronx, Gonzalez said. “The needs are far greater and the candidates are not coming so readily. … We just cannot attract the same number of candidates as a school in Manhattan.”

Gonzalez still has two slots to fill, but he’s now optimistic that he’ll be able to land strong teachers.

“This opens up a different pool,” he said about today’s policy change. “It frankly gives us first crack at the pool. I’m still coming off this high.”