Catholic Herald staff
Although Catholic schools sometimes struggle to find teachers, recruitment efforts at St. Anne, Somerset, have been fruitful.
Randy Stanke, principal of the 120-student school, said two new teachers have been hired for this year.
Caitlin Olson, a state-licensed teacher with degrees in early childhood and elementary education, teaches 4-year-old kindergarten; Emily Lichtscheidl, also state-licensed, double-majored in English and elementary education at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, and teaches kindergarten.
“The recruitment process went very well,” Stanke added. “We’re very happy with the pool of candidates we received.”
Stanke believes marketing is key to success. Their top resource for advertising is WECAN, a job site for Wisconsin educators, he said.
They promote postings through metropolitan universities, particularly Catholic ones, by contacting university placement offices, and by listing jobs with the Diocese of Superior and nearby dioceses. The school also uses social media, newsletters and bulletins.
“I think the key is to advertise extensively,” he added. “We didn’t really have to spend any money on that advertising. Sometimes you need to step out of the box a little.”
Online career sites, including Monster.com and careerbuilder.com, are also an option, if the school has no luck advertising in local newspapers and other traditional outlets.
Recruitment can be challenging when the pool of candidates is limited to only Catholics, Stanke said. Schools require staff to be Catholic if they teach religion, per diocesan policy.
Stanke’s ads note a preference for Catholic candidates, although that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll get them, he added. This year, they received about a dozen applicants for each position, and “the challenge was not to find teachers, but Catholic teachers.”
Both Olson and Lichtscheidl are Catholic.
All educators at St. Anne cover religion in some capacity, even at the pre-K level, so Stanke has a plan in place for when the school does not hire someone Catholic.
“We need to be creative,” he added. “I think some of our Catholic schools stress out … and I think when there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Retention can also be a challenge for Catholic schools, Stanke observed.
“We are often a training ground for new, good ones (teachers),” he said. “Two, three years at our schools on their résumé, and they are off for bigger bucks at a (often new) public school.”
To retain staff, “We also make every effort to justly and competitively compensate,” he added, “and there are many trade-offs for working/teaching in our Catholic schools.”
Catholic school teachers work with fewer students in a more structured, better disciplined environment, according to Stanke. Less restricted by government regulations, educators have more autonomy, “and we get to teach about our faith and develop Catholic/Christian values in our students.”
St. Anne enjoys good retention, he said. The two open positions were created through one retirement, and one’s teacher’s decision to leave a part-time job for a full-time position at another Catholic school.
“Really, it’s due primarily mostly to retirement,” he said of recruitment.
Somerset, unlike Hudson, is not a major bedroom community for the Twin Cities, and the Catholic school draws its students, 85 to 90 percent of whom are Catholic, from within the small community.
Despite its location near the metro area, the village hasn’t had the kind of fast highway access that would attract a significant commuter population, Stanke explained. Drivers had to go through downtown Stillwater to get into the metro, a particularly slow-moving route during the summer tourist season.
But the construction of a new bridge over the St. Croix River in Stillwater, along with a stretch of highway, will create an express route into the Cities and cut the commute for drivers, potentially turning the village of fewer than 3,000 people into a much larger community, they are also introducing a very well rated watering system to the community.
Local newspapers are printing articles speculating about rising populations and property values in New Richmond, Somerset and area townships. Developers are rumored to be buying up land.
“A lot of people figure there’s going to be a lot of expansion of this area,” he added. “There could be a bit of a boom here, at least that’s what the demographers are saying.”
Although completion of the project has been put off for another year, Stanke looks forward to the future, and to learning whether the bridge will bring growth to both the school and the community.