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Pre-K recruitment site to help connect teachers and community organizations

The city is stepping up its efforts to recruit pre-kindergarten teachers, with a new website that encourages them to consider jobs in the community-based organizations crucial to the mayor’s pre-K expansion plan.

The website is a one-stop shop for the educators that officials are hoping will flock to the new programs, and is an attempt to help streamline the application process for prospective teachers. Until recently, pre-K teachers were only targeted by the Department of Education’s centralized hiring site and had to reach out to CBOs separately.

After a pilot program that allowed applicants to share their information with CBOs proved effective in helping those organizations find teachers, the city looked for ways to expand that program, said Sophia Pappas, executive director of the department’s office of early childhood education. The new site separates the pre-K application process and encourages applicants to fill out a form to show interest in working at a CBO, which will allow the organizations to target those educators.

“With so many different CBOs being involved in the partnership, we want to give them a way to vet quickly and efficiently a wide group,” said Amy Way, the city’s executive director of teacher recruitment and quality.

David Nocenti, executive director of Union Settlement Association, a nonprofit that operates seven childcare centers in East Harlem, said any new way for his organization to find prospective teachers would be helpful.

“If you just moved in here from New Jersey or Kentucky, you wouldn’t necessarily know to go to Union Settlement’s website and reach out and apply,” he said. “It certainly is simpler if there’s one place to go. And for teachers, that could mean you have 15 different organizations reaching out to you.”

But one big question remains: how will the city convince attract highly qualified teachers to work in CBOs, where they are needed but can be paid 40 percent less?

The Department of Education’s pre-K programs in schools require certification and offer higher pay than the community-based organizations, where teachers can be hired while they are working toward their certification. But the city is eager to avoid a “tale of two cities” narrative within its pre-K push, and officials have said that they are working to address the incentive gaps between CBOs and school-based programs.

In many neighborhoods where schools are already overcrowded, all of the growth in pre-K availability will come through community-based organizations, the mayor noted last month.

Pappas said that the new recruitment website is one way to spread information about the benefits of CBOs, which she said many teachers prefer because of a connection to their surrounding neighborhoods and their ability to offer unique programs.

“Not everyone is clear—not just teachers—about what we mean when we say CBOs, why it might be an attractive place to work,” she said. “We’ve been trying to demystify that.”