A web-based teacher recruitment system launched last year in the St. Louis area is bringing qualified candidates to the region’s schools in droves. The online system, which also saves time and money for the districts’ human resource departments, has caught the eye of school leaders from nearly every corner of the country.

Called REAP, or Regional Education Application Program, the system was launched in March 1998 by the Cooperating School Districts of St. Louis (CSD). At the time of its first anniversary, REAP had collected some 3,000 applications. Of those applicants, 800 successfully were hired for teaching positions.

CSD, a consortium of 29 school districts in the greater St. Louis area, developed REAP to give member districts a more efficient way of gathering teacher applications, while also giving prospective teachers a place to see all the jobs available in their area.

With REAP, a candidate fills out just one online application to reach all participating school districts.

“It’s a way for schools to find top-notch quality applicants, while also making it easier for applicants to find jobs,” said George Simpson, CSD’s deputy executive director.

Initially opened only to CSD member districts, the REAP system now caters to nearly 65 school districts throughout Missouri, Simpson said. CSD has invited all districts in the state to participate in the program, so even more are likely to come on board in the near future.

Here’s how it works: Prospective teachers go to the REAP web site and fill out a detailed online application form. The application can take a couple of hours to complete, but it doesn’t have to be done in one sitting.

The application gathers a wealth of information from candidates, including personal history, work history, educational background, and job preferences—everything a traditional paper application form would cover. Additionally, applicants complete a series of essay questions designed to get a feel for their expectations, goals, and aspirations.

Once completed, applications are filed in the REAP database, where all participating districts have access to them.

For human resource personnel, the system provides an extremely efficient way to weed through the pool of qualified applicants. With a password, a human resource director can log onto the system and use one of several search criteria to find the best matches.

Need a third-grade teacher with a strong technology background who wants to teach in an urban school? REAP will search through its vast database of applicants and quickly identify the qualified candidates.

The system also means less paperwork for human resource departments. All applications are stored on the REAP database for five years, eliminating the need to keep vast files of paper application forms.

About $125,000 has been invested in REAP so far, though CSD already has seen a return on its investment, Simpson said.

Since its launch, the system has caught the eye of school districts and regional education service agencies from coast to coast.

“We didn’t realize at the time we pulled this together that school districts across the country were looking to develop this kind of system,” Simpson said.

When a regional service agency in Connecticut approached Simpson to develop a comparable system for its area, CSD decided to take on the challenge. Backed by the Connecticut Department of Education, CSD built a REAP system that covers every school in the state. Connecticut’s REAP went online July 1.

Next up for Simpson is a contract with a consortium of 70 school districts in New York. The REAP system there is slated to be launched this fall.

But CSD isn’t stopping there. Simpson currently is negotiating to bring REAP to school districts or regional service agencies in Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania as well.

“I’m very proud of this system,” he remarked. “It’s grown beyond my wildest expectations.”

Cooperating School Districts of St. Louis

http://www.info.csd.org

REAP Missouri

http://www.reap.net

REAP Connecticut

http://www.ctreap.net