Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Whaddya Gotta Do For a Job?

I may well be digging a hole for myself here, hell it wouldn't be the first time, but this just got in my caw and I want to share it --- gee, doesn't that just give you the giggles? Oh well ...

For those of you who know me a bit more than a reasonable perusal of this blog would tell the average peruser, I'm a retired naval officer who decided that the best job to go into was teaching. I like teaching and at this point my wife, who's a post-doctoral neurophysiologist, has a career that will require a few moves and some flexibility. Thankfully I got my BS in one of the "hard" sciences --- hard in this case means hard to find people who want to teach it in HS. Being a high school chemistry teacher will give me the flexibility to teach wherever my wife needs to go, and provide some flexible hours for living a life as a couple (it'll also take some hours away as I've come to learn that being a high school science teacher, if you're trying to come close to doing it right, is no easy haul.) I'm in the middle of a job search having just recently, about three weeks ago, completed my certification requirements with Providence College. I've been using the local newspaper, the Providence Journal, to look for jobs. This past Sunday I came upon the following job posting:

EDUCATION Anticipated Vacancies for 2005-2006 School Year HOPE HIGH SCHOOL: Physics, Special Ed. M/M, Special Ed. 230 Day, ROTC, Computer Information Systems, Math, Math/Bilingual, Math/LEP, Biology/Bilingual, Chemistry/LEP, Phys. Ed., Special Ed. Intensive Resource, Special Ed. Inclusion, English, English/Media, Social Studies/Bilingual, Social Studies/LEP, Social Studies, English/Social Studies, Spanish, ESL, Business Education, Dance, Visual Arts, Guidance DISTRICT-WIDE: FULL-TIME AND PART-TIME SPEECH PATHOLOGISTS, Middle School Endorsement, Secondary Special Ed., School Nurse Teachers, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Secondary Math, Spanish Bilingual Special Ed., Early Childhood/Elementary Spanish Bilingual, Latin, Spanish and Italian, Long-Term Substitute Teachers, OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS PHYSICAL THERAPISTS Applications may be obtained at the Providence School Department, Office of Human Resources, 797 Westminster Street, Providence, or on our Website at
http://www.providenceschools.org/. Send completed application and resume to Gail B. Hareld, Human Resources Administrator. An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer

Ok, some background here as it sure and heck would look like Hope HS is looking for a TON of teachers. Why is that? Because Hope is considered a "failing school". It has had a hard time getting its students to perform well on the standardized tests used to determine student achievement and it has a reputation for being a very difficult school for a plethora of reasons. The school has managed to place itself in a situation where it has heightened state intervention, to the degree that there's been a "special master" appointed to oversee the school. In the course of this many teachers have bailed out as, on the whole, the teachers have taken a large share of the blame for the school's performance. This is a complicated issue and it's not really the point of this post, but I wanted to get across the idea that this is a troubled school, in need of many new teachers as its job posting clearly indicates.

As you can see, the job listing states that you should fill out an application with the
Providence School System. If you go to their site you encounter an eight page application and a list of requirements to simply submit a package that is somewhere off the chart, but then maybe it's me that has unreasonable expectations and experiences. Anyway, I thought the expectations were so unreasonable that I sent the following letter to the Mayor of Providence, the Providence City Council, and my Councilman (the email below was to the councilman):

First, in all fairness, I sent a similar copy of this email to the mayor and the city council. Given that I used the generic address for the council I'm assuming that you may very well find this coming your way anyway, so hopefully I'm beating out the system.

Here's my problem: I'm trying to understand the job application requirements associated with a teaching position here in Providence. Frankly from what I do understand they're off the wall
and I'm trying to understand if my expectations are unreasonable or those of the city are.

I'm a recently certified chemistry teacher (I just completed my teacher certification at Providence College this past April), so I'm in the process of looking for jobs in the Rhode Island area. Yesterday I encountered a job posting in the ProJo asking for teachers for positions at Hope HS. Being a resident of Providence, and living about a mile away from Hope, I'm well aware of why Hope would be looking for as many teachers as this advertisement seems to indicate are needed. The advertisement refers me to:

www.providenceschools.org

At the site you can find an eight page application (the average everywhere else is 4 to 6), and then I'm referred to the following site for how to apply for a position:

http://www.providenceschools.org/dept/hr/apply.html

Here I learn the following:

Teaching Applications must include the following:

-State of Rhode Island teaching certification
-Copy of Praxis or National Teaching Exam
-Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI)background check
-Resume
-Three (3) current letters of reference
-Original transcripts
-Copy of driver’s license and/or passport and social security card
-Mantoux (PPD) skin test results (tuberculosis)
-Hepatitis vaccine

All applicants who are not currently employed by the Providence School Department must submit an original state and national criminal records check through the Attorney General’s Office, Rhode Island State Police or local police department where they reside.

Department of Attorney General
150 South Main Street
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 274-4400
$29.00 for both

An application packet will not be processed until these documents are obtained. Please refer to Law #16-2-18.1 Criminal Records Review.

Now here's the thing, if you add up the costs for the PPD, hepatitis vaccination, and then the background checks, you're talking about close to $90. So add that to official transcripts, various copies, the time you spend getting the medical things done, and the time you spend putting all this together, you're out of pocket WELL over $100 just to have your application accepted, i.e. just to get in the door. My question is: Is this reasonable? I don't understand why the city of Providence has to put applicants through this much expense just to have their application reviewed. Providence is looking for good teachers to work at Hope HS, how many are going to be dissuaded by the expenditure required to merely have one's application accepted?

I don't question the need for background checks, PPDs, and hepatitis vaccines, but what possible reason can there be for having these things done before one is offered a job? Making the final offer contingent on all these things being satisfactory makes a lot of sense, and the person putting out the money at least has the comfort of knowing the expense will be for a new job in hand. I'd also like to point out that no other school district in Rhode Island that I've done business with at this point (that would be 7 school districts as of today) requires this sort of out-of-pocket expense simply to accept an application for review. Providence may be special, but I'm not sure it's that special.

Your insight on this would be greatly appreciated. I would have CC'd the human resources folks at the Providence school system, but the email addresses they provide at their web page above don't work.

Sincerely,

Something I was pondering was if the teachers are required to get a PPD AND a hepatitis vaccine, are the students similarly required? I mean who's the most likely vector for such diseases, students or teachers? Hmmmmm ... well I'm sure that's something else to wonder about during my days of idle contemplation.

Like I said, I may very well have shot my chances of ever getting a job in Providence, but that they should think it's reasonable to have someone lay out over $100 for simply having the privilege of providing an application for their review, well that does seem to push the outer limits. Any ideas on this, dear gentle readers?

6 Comments:

Blogger GrrlScientist said...

I think those requirements are absolutely out of line. If the school wants people to apply, then they have to consider the fact that most of their potential applicants are strapped for cash and many have not had health insurance for years. Where are their potential teachers supposed to get the money for these requirements, especially when they may be struggling simply to pay rent? I am certain that these ridiculous requirements will significantly reduce the pool of applicants that they get.

But you said this is a troubled school .. has anyone ever realized that this ad is a clear example for the reason that this school will probably remain troubled, even though the administrators are replacing all the teachers? If replacing teachers doesn't work, maybe they will decide to replace all the students next!

Gotta love the corporatization of education, right?

GrrlScientist

12:27 PM  
Blogger James said...

GirlScientist (who just got a job herself, yippeee!),

You're totally on the mark with your observations. The fact is that I can afford the money for this, and I'm lucky enough to have health insurance that would likely (though, in all honesty I'm not sure) cover the costs of the shots. But why in the world should it take over $100 just to get your application in the door? Major Duh! there, if you ask me.

And you're right, they have a school that's doing poorly, they're looking for teachers to come in and they're raising the bar on getting in so high that perfectly good teachers who might consider working there would be inclined, and rightfully so, to say forget it. This makes no sense.

But one thing I'd take exception with, this isn't corporatization, this is the standard public school system, this is the local civil service. Corporates, as a rule, don't lay fees on you to get in the door, indeed they're often paying someone to find you and bring you in the door, and when you're there they take care of your expenses for you because they feel you're worth the investment. The Providence Public School system apparently takes a different view on this.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Cris said...

Wellie, well, well. :) There's a novel idea - lure them into your desperate conditions with promises that they have to pay YOU.

Sort've kafka-esque. Can't help it, it's the way my mind thinks. I'd want to know who approved the fee in the first place. I wouldn't be asking if they thought it was reasonable - rhetorical questions aside. I'd be demanding its immediate removal. sigh. But that's me. It's hard enough to dance around all the things that really need diplomacy; this is ludicrous from any direction.

1:37 PM  
Blogger James said...

Hadn't considered the Kafka-esqueness of it, but you've a point.

"Yes, ma'am, the situation's really crummy, and we really need to get some good people to help us fix it all up, and we're willing to let you pay to be a part of this, with absolutely no guarantee that you'll get anything out of it other than being over $100 lighter in the pocketbook!"

Like, wow, if I had a lot less scruples than I do imagine what I could do with that line of salesmanship, assuming it actually works.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your letter says it all, very well. Though you may have screwed yourself out of a job, it needed to be said. If they really want good teachers, they will look at your missive and say, wow, that's the kind of thinking we need at our school!

6:50 PM  
Blogger James said...

I have to admit that I seriously considered whether I should say anything, but then I thought to myself, "Hell, I'm not going to pay this ridiculous sum for a job, so what do I have to lose?" So off went the letter. They seriously need to look at what they're doing here, something I don't think they've given much thought to at all. You don't get good people to go work for you by asking them to pay for the privilege of simply having you consider whether they want you to work for you, that's just out to lunch.

7:16 PM  

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