Easing the Stress of the Staffing Process

Posted By: Jeff McHugh AASPA Blog,

Easing the Stress of the Staffing Process

By Jeff McHugh

Working in education is never easy, but February is an especially tough month. Educators must deal with rampant illness, mid-year exhaustion, and awful winter weather, which leads to the even more awful indoor recess. It’s no wonder that people refer to February as “the armpit of the school year.” It is during this difficult month that human resource (HR) professionals undertake the stressful task of creating staffing plans for the following year.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent the staffing process from getting too hairy. While elementary, middle, and high schools have different staffing processes, here are some tips that can apply to any level.

1. Create a timeline.

Planning well in advance of February will pay dividends. Many districts aim to have staffing plans wrapped up by spring break, so the timeline might span from January through March. The timeline doesn’t need to be fancy: ours is done on a spreadsheet with columns labeled Deadline, Task/Topic, Who is Responsible, and Date Completed. Types of tasks listed on the timeline might include:

  • HR-specific tasks, such as creating the sequence of dismissal lists and providing non-renewal lists to the School Board
  • School-specific tasks, such as prep work for anticipated staffing needs for the following year and sectioning discussions between school administrators and department chairs 
  • Collaborative conversations that involve various combinations of HR staff, school and district administrators, and union representatives (see Tip 3)

2. Gather data using shared documents.

There is plenty of information to gather to prepare for staffing. HR employees, business office personnel, school administrators, department chairs, and other roles may all contribute information. For an HR professional leading the staffing process, curating this data can be cumbersome and time-consuming. A collaborative document can make data gathering a breeze. We use a Google Sheet with a tab for each school to add projected section numbers and staff needed. All of the data is in one place, and when used in conjunction with a timeline, the collaborative document is a simple tool for gathering information and making it accessible.

3. Solidify plans through conversations. 

After compiling the quantitative data, engaging in discussion provides qualitative information to develop staffing plans. We have preliminary conversations with principals in January to hear their perspectives about staffing needs for the following year. After meeting with our business office, we have a target number for overall staff. In February, we meet with principals again to review the information contained in the shared document. By asking questions and discussing options, we get a better understanding of the school-based perspective. Through further conversations with school and district administrators, we land on a staffing plan that meets the needs of students while being fiscally responsible. 

Staffing can be a stressful task for HR professionals, especially during the armpit of the school year. By establishing a timeline, using a collaborative document to gather data, and finalizing plans through conversations, you’ll see that the staffing process doesn’t have to stink.