As we all know only too well, the recession has wreaked havoc on Belmont’s budget – as it has for so many other towns in the Bay State…and the State budget, itself…and the Federal budget, too. But state-wide cutbacks that have hit school districts hard are making for a great hiring market for those schools that need to replace existing teaching positions or — can you imagine – are even creating new positions. At Winn Brook Elementary, for example, Principal Janet Carey wrote this week that she fielded around 700 applications for four open positions at that school to replace retiring staff or accomodate larger than expected classes: one first grade teacher, two, fourth grade teachers and an art teacher. That’s 175 applicants per position, or an acceptance rate of just over one half of one percent, on average. Compare that with Harvard University’s comparatively generous 7% acceptance rate (2,046 of 29,112 applicants) this year, and landing a teaching gig in Belmont looks like an episode of the Apprentice. (Yes: I know that I’m averaging across the four positions, but we don’t know whether they were all equally competitive – so the competition could have been even tougher for some jobs and less stringent for others.)
No surprise then that Winn Brook ended up with some excellent new hires: all four new teachers have undergraduate degrees from excellent colleges and universities (Bates, BC (for two new hires) and Stonehill College). Importantly: all four have (or will have by the time school starts) advanced degrees in fields related to teaching — Master’s degrees in Education, Art Education, Special Needs Education and Reading and Literacy. While I’m sure that districts across the state are being innundated with applications, also, the numbers here and the impressive backgrounds of the folks who were hired are a good sign that Belmont Public Schools are continuing to attract top talent.