October 2019 Administrative Update
by: Mark Mambretti
Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Personnel/CIO
Values-based Hiring in EA Schools
“You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But, it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
– Walt Disney
After weathering years of difficult budgets brought on by State politics, a new ‘springtime’ is in the air for East Aurora schools. We are reducing class sizes and restoring programs previously cut. We are innovating with new curriculum, electives and modern, state-of-the-art STEAM labs in all three schools. We’ve made significant building renovations and safety upgrades. And we’ve recently made the largest technology investment in our school’s history with the adoption of 1:1 Chromebooks for all students in grades 1-12.
These are exciting times for East Aurora Schools! But we know that all of these programs, initiatives, electives, labs, safety and technology are only as effective as the people who help bring our programs to life. That is why the District has made a shift from skills-based hiring to culture-based hiring.
This ‘attitude over aptitude’ approach understands that once individuals obtain a certain level of skill and competence, what differentiates them in the workplace is their attitude and approach. It places our District Values of Learning Excellence, Respectful Relationships, Effective Communication and Continuous Improvement at the forefront of every decision we make and, most importantly, hiring decisions. It recognizes that it is much easier to change someone’s skill level through training and professional development than it is to change someone’s attitude.
To achieve this, interview questions are mainly scenario based; trying to understand how someone thinks rather than what they know. Candidates are asked to make decisions or demonstrate how they’d respond to situations. Each step of the process involves intentional messaging of the District’s cultural norms and expectations.
Turning conventional hiring wisdom on its head, we do not look for a good cultural fit. Rather, we look for cultural contributors. Looking for a "Cultural Fit" weeds out diversity and maintains the status quo. "Cultural Contributors" bring something new -- a thought, opinion, method, history, background, or experience -- that will ADD to the existing team to make it better. Most organizations look to hire the best fit. Great organizations look to hire the individual who can offer the most to the team -- even if, and especially if, that contribution challenges the organization to evolve.
When asked about hiring at Apple, Steve Jobs once quipped, “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” The same is true with East Aurora schools. The bold vision that produced the above-mentioned development of electives, the creation of new learning spaces, the growth of curriculum and the innovations of technology have come ‘ground up’ from members of our team who want to make EA schools even better than they are.
For each position we look to hire, we receive letters of interest from dozens of individuals who are certified to teach the curriculum. But when we look to select which individual is right to join our team, we look for the person who has a positive attitude and solution-focused approach that will make a real and lasting contribution in the lives of students and the broader community… and then we empower them to do so!