The cliché that it takes one to know one fits for Carol Shackleford, supervisor of personnel services for the public schools.
After 30 years with the district, Shackleford is retiring, leaving behind seven years of teaching experience and another 19 years as an administrator. Her last day is June 30.
“In order to find good teachers, you have to know what a good teacher is,” said Shackleford, a Centreville resident for the past 18 years and a Northern Virginia native.
Since 1998, Shackleford has been recruiting, interviewing, hiring and transferring teachers for the public schools. As she interviews, she looks for candidates who are child-centered, enthusiastic, interested in improving their teaching styles and willing to do whatever it takes to help children learn.
These qualities Shackleford said she picks up through interview questions and informal dialogue, along with her observations of body language. She takes into consideration a candidate’s experience and places emphasis on references and a background check with the candidate's current principal.
“As a teacher, you have a better sense of the needs and demands in the classroom. You have to have been there,” Shackleford said.
SHACKLEFORD typically conducts 1,800 interviews a year, narrowed down from an average of 3,000 applications. She spends about 45 minutes on each interview, finishing three to eight interviews in a day during the main hiring season, which starts in early April and continues through the end of summer, though early offers are conducted year-round. This year, Shackleford is helping hire more than 600 teachers and licensed personnel to work at the district’s 52 existing schools and another five schools scheduled to open in fall 2002. Last year, she helped hire 565 licensed personnel.
“Our goal is to fill the positions as quickly as possible,” Shackleford said.
Besides hiring, Shackleford recruits potential teachers at job fairs, colleges and universities and completed about five recruiting trips this year. She works with transfers, the licensed personnel who switch schools within the same district. She averages 200 transfers a year by handling the transfer requests and contacting the staff members about the offers.
“You have an impact on the school district as a whole instead of on an individual building,” Shackleford said, adding that she took the supervisor position to work “in a broader-based position.
In 1972, Shackleford was hired by the public schools as a fourth-grade teacher at Sully Elementary School, the same year she earned her bachelor of science in education from George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax. “It was a tough job then, and it is now,” she said about teaching.
Shackleford taught for seven years until 1979, when she was hired as assistant principal at Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, a school that had 82 students at the time. The year prior, she had earned her master of science in education in from GMU.
IN 1982, Shackleford moved to a larger school with less than 100 students, serving as principal at Aldie Elementary School until 1985. She continued as a principal for another three years at Hamilton Elementary School, which had 225 students, ending her administrator’s career at Guilford Elementary School of 600 students, working there from 1988 –98.
“She looks for the good in everyone. She is such an encourager. She’s really going to be missed by a lot of people,” said Linda Robinson, principal at Tolbert Elementary School, which opened in Leesburg this year. Robinson met Shackleford 28 years ago when she started teaching fifth grade at Sully, where Shackleford was a fourth-grade teacher. “She really was my mentor. She was very caring, very encouraging, someone you look up to for guidance,” Robinson said.
Robinson later worked with Shackleford in the early 1990s when she took her first administrator job as assistant principal at Guilford. “There I was again having her as a mentor,” said Robinson, who worked as an assistant principal for six to seven years before being assigned as principal in 1998 at Lincoln Elementary School in Purcellville. “She gave me the nudge for being a principal,” she said.
“A good administrator is a good mentor,” Shackleford said. “You get to share experiences you had yourself or observed.”
Shackleford and her husband Walt Shackleford plan to sell their Centreville home and move to the Northern Neck. Shackleford said she plans to travel, do some consulting work and may continue to work for the personnel office as a retired administrator.
The Shacklefords have two adult children.