School leaders know that the classroom is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. In classrooms, great teaching makes great gains in learning possible.

Faced with looming teacher shortages, spiraling employee search costs, and growing mountains of paperwork, savvy human resource directors are turning to the web to streamline and maximize their recruitment efforts.

Rather than requiring personal visits, phone contacts, or letters to find out about job openings or to get an application form, districts are now posting this information on their home pages.

Although content varies, the most effective web pages highlight the district’s or school’s “unique selling proposition”–those facts, features, and information that capture the essence of the organization and appeal most to potential employees.

It helps to be specific. If you want to recruit only teachers who have a strong commitment to diversity or who are technologically literate, say so. (Of course, tracking on-line applications and eMail inquiries is a good place to start when seeking the technologically literate.)

Job seekers also appreciate information about professional development opportunities, benefit packages, salary schedules, tuition reimbursement plans, merit-pay policies, curriculum guidelines, general district information, and other “frequently asked questions.”

This always has been true, but the web makes accessing this information easier and more convenient. Prospective employees can download and print information from your site on an as-needed basis and at their convenience. The benefit to you: savings in mailing costs and staff time.

Quick and easy-to-fill-out guest books, exit surveys, and eMail links to key people on your staff will add value to your employment section by making it easier for job candidates to contact your organization for more information. These simple techniques can also help you build your own database or mailing list(s) for future public relations contacts.

A handful of innovative school districts, education service agencies, and universities are taking this idea a step further, creating virtual human resource offices and on-line career centers.

Some sites to check out:

The Pasadena Unified School District (California), which includes current job listings and bulletins, on-line applications, plus details about the district’s employment process, mentor teacher program, salary schedules and fringe benefits. The California School Boards Association has a job listings section on its home page and lets you download its application form.

Houston Independent School District (Texas) posts employment opportunities and adds some neat features, including a new teacher recruitment schedule of the district’s job fairs at state universities and information about substitute teaching and the district’s innovative alternative certification program for teachers.

The William Floyd School District (N.Y.) lists current job opportunities, contact information and phone numbers.

The Allen Independent School District (Texas) hosts a human resource section on its homepage. The section posts current job listings and lets prospective employees request a job application on-line.

REAPing rewards

Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis Inc. (CSD), for example, has teamed up with area personnel directors and college placement officers to develop the Regional Education Applicant Placement (REAP) program. The program matches teachers with open positions in four counties surrounding St. Louis, Mo.

Launched in March, this new system enables prospective teachers to fill out an electronic job application and then post it on the REAP web site, instantly putting their certifications, work history, educational philosophy, job preferences, activities, honors, and other key data within easy reach of more than 29 school districts and 500 schools. Candidates can also research current job openings by district, geographic location, subject, or grade level.

Because REAP is backed by a sophisticated database, human resource directors can use it to screen candidates and conduct customized searches for employees with very specific qualifications–all in a matter of minutes.

Looking for a sixth grade teacher who is interested in coaching high school wrestling and has successful experience in an urban setting? REAP can quickly and easily scan through the more than 1,500 applications it has on file and identify qualified candidates.

And, by centralizing applications for the entire region, REAP makes sure that all districts have complete access to the available pool of candidates. REAP also keeps all records on file for three years, in accordance with Missouri school law, streamlining paperwork and filing for participating districts.

Response to the new system already has been phenomenal, according to CSD’s George Simpson, who developed the system. Every month, Simpson fields more than 400 applications as well as daily calls from educators and groups around the country who are eager to replicate the REAP model.

“Several districts are so happy with it, they’ve decided to use it exclusively,” says Simpson, CSD’s deputy executive director. “They’re telling candidates that they’ll only look at them if they get on the REAP system.”

A classic example of how the web is changing the way we do business in education, REAP also demonstrates the power of forging strategic partnerships and alliances.

With nearly $100,000 invested in the system thus far, primarily in staff time, REAP would be out of reach for many individual districts.

But, by pooling resources, sharing ideas, and working together over a two-year period, 29 districts ranging in size from 1,400 to more than 21,000 students have equal access to state-of-the-art technology and can compete more effectively in the educational talent pool.

Pasadena Unified School District

The California School Boards Association

William Floyd School District

Houston Independent School District

Allen Independent School District