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In a sea of applicants, a $500 bounty for top-tier teachers

Explore Charter School CEO Morty Ballen has hundreds of teachers knocking at the doors of his Brooklyn charter schools, hoping to get a job. Yet to find the right person, Ballen has put out a bounty notice.

For the past several years, Ballen has offered a $500 finder’s fee to anyone who refers a candidate he ends up hiring at either of his two charter schools, Empower and Explore. With over 300 applicants for about two dozen vacancies this year, it may seem like an odd choice to pay people to find more teacher-hopefuls, but Ballen said it’s a good way to discover “diamonds in the rough.”

“There are just not enough outstanding teachers who can meet the needs of kids we’re teaching,” Ballen said. “Every year it’s a nail biter to get outstanding teachers who can do a great job.”

Most of the reward money has gone to teachers at his own schools who’ve suggested other teachers they know, he said.

“The teachers who are most successful here know this community and one great source is the folks who are referred by members of the community because they know our culture,” he said.

Ballen’s ideal candidate: someone with two or more years of experience working in high-poverty schools and a master’s degree.

Some charter schools hire teachers with less experience as assistant teachers, creating what one Columbia Teachers College graduate calls a “junior varsity.” After a year seeing these people in action, the schools give the best ones their own classrooms.

Explore’s bounty offer:

Explore Schools is a network of high-performing schools providing 600 students in Brooklyn with the outstanding public education they deserve.

Our mission is to provide our students with the skills and knowledge they need to graduate from high school, succeed in college, and achieve their dreams.

Earn $500 by helping Explore Schools find great teachers!! We are looking for teachers who believe in our work, our students, and our mission and are awarding anyone who successfully refers a candidate to teach at Explore $500. Simply request that an applicant include your name as the referrer in their application, then submit your contact information and your referral’s name to

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