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    Memphis schools hit road together to recruit

    Jane Roberts
    As premier sponsor, plus host of the after party, Teach901 plans to dominate the biggest teacher job fair in Chicago this weekend, tag-teaming the crowd on the floor and sending leads back to its main booth at the door.
    “What we are trying to present is Memphis is the ideal community for the best teachers in the nation,” Teach901 founder John Carroll said this week between buzzes on his overactive cellphone.
    The nonprofit snagged a bus, paid registration fees for public and private Memphis schools that wanted to go and will pull out at 8 a.m. Friday with 25 teacher recruiters and principals on board, headed for the Illinois Network of Charter Schools teacher fair Saturday.
    “No other city has done this before,” said Emily Cupples, who’s shepherded the blitz since a group of charter and public school leaders came up with the idea in November.
    For $1,045, Teach901 got the sponsorship title, which includes the largest booth, names and addresses of all the teachers at the fair, plus its name on the program and after-party invitations.
    “They are using every angle they have to meet teachers,” said Jelani McEwen, INCS charter support manager. “Memphis set the precedent for other cities coming to a major city to make a quality investment in recruiting. Teach901 has its tag on everything we are doing: ‘Memphis is the place. Now is the time. You are the one.’ ”
    Initially, the Teach901 group imagined a common application so recruits interested in Memphis “wouldn’t be immediately discouraged” if the first school didn’t work out, Cupples said. “They would have that push to apply to other schools.”
    Besides scads of Memphis products and glad-handers talking up the city, Teach901 brokered a deal with myEDmatch.com, a website that uses a Match. com-like algorithm to connect teachers to schools that want their skills. Five apples is a perfect match.
    “Instead of having schools individually sign up, we made a deal and got a great price. We were the first one to do that,” Cupples said. “It ordinarily costs $3,000 per school. We got it down to $1,000 per school. Our funders purchased it and gave it to the school administrators to use. It didn’t cost them a thing.”
    Teach901 has 60 schools in the database now. In two weeks, Carroll hopes to have funding for 75.
    “Great teachers are interested in being part of the biggest thing happening in education, which is the reform movement in Memphis,” he said. “We can use our story and what is happening here to bring in other talent that wouldn’t have considered Memphis 10 years ago.”
    For more than three years, he’s been recruiting leaders for Memphis through his City Leadership. In 2012, he rolled out Choose901.com to pull in 20- to 30-year-olds. In early 2013, he launched Teach901 with school reform in mind.
    Every charter, ASD, iZone school and now municipal district is hiring teachers who have proved backgrounds in enhancing student achievement. Allison Leslie, executive director of Aspire Public Schools, needs to hire 22 teachers for next year to cover the new sixth-grade at Aspire’s Hanley campus in Orange Mound and staff Coleman, the elementary it is taking over in the fall.
    “Aspire was at the fair last year. We thought, through the meetings we have around talent and making Memphis ‘teacher town,’ wouldn’t it be great if this year we could have a whole wall that was about Memphis? We all went in together,” she said.
    “Collectively, our voice is louder and our message is stronger. You’ve got a group of people saying, ‘come to Memphis; come to teacher town.’”
    From her seat in the sponsor’s booth, Cupples will encourage participants to built myEDmatch profiles. With every Memphis match, she’ll alert schools on the fair floor, and the selling will begin.
    “We’ll send them to talk to specific schools and then come back to us for details about the city,” she said. “Our message is Memphis not only a place to invest your life, but a place you can enjoy your life as well. You take away a paycheck, but you get the fulfillment of knowing what you do matters.”
    Since many schools begin professional development in June, Cupples wants hires here and settled by May. She’s working with the New Memphis Institute on the welcoming.
    “Studies show that around age 22, college-educated professional are looking for an environment to live,” Cupples said. “That’s the prime time to grab them and pull them to your city. You have a three- to five-year window to keep them. Once they’re 26 or 27, they’re probably going to stick around for a long time.
    “We’re trying to get as many of those people into the city and hold on to as many as we can,” she said. “We’re setting Memphis up for a great future.”
    Schools along for the ride
    ASD/Aspire Public Schools
    Cornerstone Prep
    Frayser Community Schools
    Freedom Preparatory Academy
    Gestalt Community Schools
    Catholic Diocese of Memphis schools
    GRAD Academy
    GreenDot Public Schools
    Grizzlies Prep
    KIPP Charter Schools
    Memphis College Prep
    Memphis Rise Academy
    New Hope Christian Academy
    Promise Academy
    Shelby County iZone
    Veritas College Prep
    Scripps Lighthouse
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