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Public Schools Begin Taking Fingerprints

The school district has bought fingerprint machines to reduce the time it takes to do background checks on applicants.

Loudoun County Public Schools has bought four fingerprint machines to reduce the amount of time it takes to do background checks on teacher applicants.

Matthew Britt, superintendent for Personnel Services, said last week that his staff is taking them on recruiting trips. Fingerprinting a candidate at the end of a positive interview allows Personnel Services to offer a letter of intent to hire right on the spot, he said last week.

ÔThere is not a surplus of teachers, so we are out there and finding them," he said. "A letter of intent is almost an instant contract. It says we intend to employ that person. A contract will be forthcoming."

THE SCHOOL DISTRICT has hired an average of 500 new teachers each year since 2001. This year, it hired 725 teachers, bringing the total to 3,603 teachers. Another 900 to 1,000 teachers will be needed next year, Britt said.

It costs $10,620 for a machine that captures the fingerprints and the laptop to process and send the data.

School Board member Priscilla Godfrey (Blue Ridge) said portable finger print machines make sense. "It seems like itÕs important to strike while the fire is hot."

The Personnel Services staff is conducting a worldwide search and looking for licensed teachers who have majored in and are highly qualified in the subject. "We want to hire the best and the brightest," Britt said. We look at their transcripts, student teaching experience, any community activities they have done or helped out with, that sort of thing. Of course, during the interview, weÕre looking for people who love children."

Britt said it is difficult to find technology, English as a Second Language, special education, high level math and sciences, and family and consumer science teachers.

School Board member Joseph Guzman (Sugarland) asked whether the board was using bonuses as hiring incentives.

Britt said they currently were not being offered. "WeÕre looking at some options for the budget process."

Board Member Warren Geurin (Sterling) said he looked forward to reviewing alternatives to increasing salaries.

Britt said retention and recruitment are both important. He cited new employee orientations and mentor programs as keys to making the early experience positive. "Studies show new employee orientations are important in retention, making them feel like they made a good decision," he said.

He said his staff sends e-mails to applicants after first introductions, send letters acknowledging the school districtÕs interest in them, and keeps in touch with the candidates throughout the summer. "Candidate care is important," he said.

LOUDOUN SCHOOL system also is tracking why applicants decline offers. Britt said the level is better percentage-wise than in years past. This year, 29 of the 201 applicants who were offered letters of intent declined to take the job. Last school year, 15 of 79 declined. In the 2000-2001 school year, 39 of 91 applicants turned down the job offer.

The number of teachers not accepting offers for employment in the county started to decrease, after Loudoun teacher salaries started to catch up with those of Fairfax County. The Loudoun salary for a new teacher with a bachelorÕs degree is $35,784.

Loudoun County is trying to hire more minorities and men, Britt said. The number of minorities among new hires was 6 percent or 44 minorities, encompassing Asian, black, Hispanic, bi-racial and Indian teachers.

"We are recruiting more minorities for the applicant pool each year and with a wider variety of minority classifications," he said.

The number of male new hires was 25 percent compared to 75 percent women or 178 men and 547 women.

"The percentage of men to women, with men being in the minority, has remained constant in LCPS over the years," Britt said. "This could be attributed to the fact that teaching still seems to be considered a 'female' job role, or the head of the household is looking for a job that pays a higher salary than that of a teacher."