Educate 210 aims to give teachers VIP access to San Antonio

Educate 210 aims to give teachers VIP access to San Antonio

Teachers mix with local entrepreneurs at an Educate 210 event in April. – courtesy photo

It’s not uncommon to see yoga groups on the Hays Street Bridge, but there will be something extra special about one on August 7. Mobile Om will be hosting a special yoga class, especially for teachers. The monthly yoga event will give teachers a chance to network, and introduce them to some of the city’s hippest locales, like Confluence Park, Freight, and the Pearl.

The events are hosted in partnership with Educate 210, a project funded by City Education Partners (CEP). The initiative is part match maker, part perks program. It helps local school districts and charter schools recruit teachers, and, once a teacher is hired, provides moving stipends, housing discounts, and perks to local coffee shops, yoga studios, museums and restaurants.

CEP hopes the gilded recruitment strategy and professional community building will send a statement: San Antonio is a great place to grow a teaching career.

One of the education nonprofit’s goals is to recruit teachers to San Antonio. Teacher shortages across the state are felt drastically by high poverty urban districts and charter networks, and teachers across the city are part of the nationwide struggle to raise the profile of the teaching career. Educate 210 is designed to speak to both of those challenges.

Classrooms in high poverty schools are tough, and teachers rarely stay long. Those same districts aren’t always the first stop for local job-seekers. They need a wider net.

It can be hard to recruit from outside the city, because of the cost. Educate 210 flies candidates in for their interviews, puts them up at a hotel—Hotel Emma, at that—and, if the match is made, pays the teacher a relocation stipend.

“It’s changed the game in how I’m able to recruit,” said Ray Tijerina director of special projects at Compass Rose, a charter school on San Antonio’s Southside.

With the region, state, and country to cull from, districts and charter networks have access to candidates they might have missed out on before.

Candidates like Erika Cruz.

Erika Cruz (l) was hired by KIPP Camino through Educate 210. – courtesy photo

Cruz had always loved the idea of living in San Antonio. “The city itself is so full of life, so upbeat,” Cruz said. But living and teaching in Ft. Worth, she didn’t have the time to do serious job and housing research during the prime hiring periods for new teachers.

Educate 210 made the search easier. She matched with one school, but didn’t ultimately get that job. But Educate 210 had a backup plan for her. While she was here, she attended a hiring fair hosted by the organization, and there she met KIPP Camino. The position they had available was perfect for her, she said. She’ll start her job as a 7th grade reading teacher in September.

The fact that Cruz’s first match through the system didn’t work out, isn’t a setback for Educate 210, CEP’s director of strategic initiatives Rachel Mercer-Smith said. In fact, it proves the value of a one-stop-hiring platform.

“The goal is to get people here,” Mercer-Smith said.

Schools can also take advantage of the program to facilitate recruitment of a candidate they’ve already met. Paul Morrissey of Compass Rose knew that he wanted to hire Peter Uwalaka to lead his school. Uwalaka was working in Houston, and he had a long resume of just the kind of success Morrissey is looking to recreate at Compass Rose.

(from left) Ray Tijerina, CEP Executive Director Joel Harris, and Peter Uwalaka. -courtesy photo

Morrissey encouraged Uwalaka to sign up for Educate 210, which then paid for him to fly in and interview at Compass Rose. They scheduled the interview during Fiesta week, along with about 45 other Educate 210 candidates. CEP hosted mixers, put the candidates up at Hotel Emma, and introduced them to the Fiesta City. Coming to an event like this did more than just wine and dine, Uwalaka, it proved what Tijerina and Morrissey had been telling him: San Antonio is a place you can grow your career. It gave him a snapshot of the “movement” he would be part of, he said. It’s a broader movement Morrissey and Tijerina both value.

“I believe San Antonio is becoming what education reform is supposed to look like,” Tijerina said.

Now, as a school leader, Uwalaka plans to use the service himself to recruit. “I see Educate 210 as a conduit to get the best people in our schools to serve our kids,” he said.

Mercer-Smith would like to see more school districts using Educate 210 to recruit. Right now 19 of the 55 teachers hired through Educate 210 are going to charter schools.  Thirty-six were hired by San Antonio ISD, but 28 are going to Relay Lab School and Relay Graduate School of Education in San Antonio ISD, initiatives also supported by CEP.

Programs like this appeal to charter schools Mercer-Smith said, in part because they have to do more recruiting. Teachers interested in living in San Antonio typically know how to find their way to the school districts, while charters have to advertise a little more.

San Antonio ISD, Edgewood ISD, and South San ISD have also signed on to work with Educate 210. All three are members of the States System of Great Schools network, meaning that their campuses will have more autonomy, and principals will have to hunt for talent.

 What may get more teachers and even districts on board are the perks. Teachers sacrifice a lot for their students, and their pay scale doesn’t always reflect their value. Mercer-Smith and her team Educate 210 are hoping that it can offer a little bit of rockstar treatment experienced by recruits in other fields. When a young talent hits the market in, say, tech or finance, they get the VIP treatment. Housing discounts in prime markets, and discounts at swanky coffee shops and restaurants are meant to give teachers a some of that professional courtship.

Local teachers looking for a change in employment are encouraged to use the platform as well, and the perks aren’t limited to those hired using the Educate 210 platform. The perks are for every teacher, Mercer-Smith explained, because every teacher deserves it.

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