How do we staff and lead a school to accomplish the CCTA mission?

While principles, programs, policies, and procedures are important, the staff make the difference at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District's College, Career & Technology Academy. The interview process enables CCTA to select the right staff.


The principal and the assistant principal screen candidates’ resumes, selecting the top three to five candidates. The principal and two members of the department seeking a staff member conduct the interviews. This section outlines the process, and is followed by a Hiring Tool that offers a set of rubrics to use when assessing candidates. Please read the principles for interviewing before reviewing the rubrics.


hiring Practices

KEY PRINCIPLES FOR STAFFING AND HIRING AT CCTA

LOOK FOR STAFF WHO ARE READY TO WORK IN A NONTRADITIONAL SCHOOL

In selecting staff:

  • A few years of experience in a nontraditional high school may be more of an asset than many years experience in a traditional high school.
  • Staff must be willing to work a longer school day and a different calendar (11 months).
  • Staff must be interested in teaching older students.

ENSURE THAT STAFF HAVE THE BELIEF THAT ALL STUDENTS CAN SUCCEED AND HAVE ENTHUSIASM FOR MAKING THAT HAPPEN

At CCTA, staff

  • Believe that every student can succeed, regardless of previous school history
  • Uphold a strong, positive working relationship with students
  • Respect students
  • Are flexible problem solvers, able to change gears at any moment
  • Try new things and use data to determine whether what they try is working
  • Are committed to using common instructional strategies across all classrooms so that students develop a common set of college-ready skills
  • Are willing to have visitors in the classroom
  • Are eager to become involved in more aspects of education than academic instruction

 BUILD A STAFF THAT IS WILLING TO CARRY OUT TASKS NOT REQUIRED IN A TRADITIONAL HIGH SCHOOL

  • Absences must be addressed immediately. This has implications for staff roles. All staff must understand their roles in following up on attendance, and have time to carry them out.
  • Coordination among staff is key to ensuring that an absent student feels cared for rather than harassed.
  • Every teacher, regardless of discipline, teaches “college knowledge” in the mentor class.
  • All teachers participate in inter-class visitations and rounds to improve their mastery of the six strategies in the Common Instructional Framework.

KEY PRINCIPLES FOR INTERVIEWING TEACHERS AT CCTA

START WITH WHY

  • At CCTA, teacher interviews begin with a question about why the candidate wants to work in an alternative school.

INFORM THE CANDIDATE OF THE CCTA APPROACH

The principal:

  • Explains CCTA’s mission, philosophy, students’ academic profile, and schedule
  • Asks about the candidate’s philosophy of education and considers whether the two are a match
  • Explains that CCTA uses the Common Instructional Framework, which requires a willingness to teach using a set of six teaching strategies regardless of content area; CCTA also uses the “rounds” process of professional development, a teacher-driven professional development process through which teachers observe and give feedback to colleagues.  
  • Asks questions that address motivation:

How enthusiastic is the candidate about opening his or her classroom to visitors?

How excited is the candidate about adopting new approaches to instruction?

  • Explains that the Texas Assessment Knowledge and Skills is a driving force in the school, and asks: 

Do they analyze student outcomes before making instructional choices?

Have they familiarized themselves with the types of questions most frequently asked on TAKS, and what that means for instruction?

  •  Includes at least one “what would you do” situation:

For example, a new student does not want to speak any English at all. It is not clear what the student’s literacy level is. What would you do first with this student? 

DO A CLASSROOM OBSERVATION

  • The CCTA teacher interview includes teaching a sample lesson.
  •  If that is not logistically possible, the interview team asks for ideas about lessons and activities.

LOOK FOR A LONG-TERM COMMITMENT

New teachers bring vitality and new ideas, but candidates who see the job as a stopgap measure rather than as a career are likely to leave. Recruitment and hiring require a considerable investment of time and money.

The principal:

  • Probes about where this job fits into the candidate’s five-year plans.

CLARIFY EXPECTATIONS

The principal:

  • Shares the list of CCTA staff requirements for teachers. Not every school expects teachers to greet students at the classroom door, do tutoring, and check up on absences.
  • Watches how candidates react to these expectations
  • Asks if they can envision themselves doing these things

The principal then asks herself:

  • Can I envision this candidate carrying out the school policies?

Staffing AND Job Descriptions

While programs, policies, and procedures are important, the staff make the difference at PSJA’s College, Career & Technology Academy.  Having the right staff in the right roles is critical. Staff need to believe in students and be committed to continuously learning and refining their practice to ensure that students succeed.     

JOB DESCRIPTIONS OVERVIEW

The principal recruits, hires, and orients staff; provides instructional leadership by overseeing staff development, attending weekly department meetings, and visiting classes; puts systems in place to support the school’s goals; works with the superintendent and district counterparts; monitors daily attendance, launches school improvement efforts; provides school leadership; monitors every aspect of the school and maintains a visible presence with staff, students, and community. A secretary supports the principal and assistant principal. Qualities needed in a principal include ability to problem solve, innovate, adapt constantly; ability to develop partnerships across institutions; ability to support adult learning; ability to move quickly; tenacity; and knowledge of or ability to learn required policies and procedures.

The assistant principal oversees day-to-day administrative duties and assists in staff development, including: testing-Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills [TAKS] and Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System [TELPAS]; attendance; tutoring; Language Proficiency Assessment Committee [LPAC] Administrator; 504 Administrator (Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance); discipline; the school calendar; administration regarding the parent liaison, school web page, and school activities such as field trips; student meals and busing; and administration regarding recruitment, enrollment and orientation, and field trips. 

Teaching Staff

The minimal teaching staff needed for CCTA (serving approximately 150 students):

  • Two math teachers
  • Two science teachers
  • One social studies teacher
  • One English language arts (ELA) teacher

More than one social studies teacher is rarely necessary because most students are not short credits in social studies. To allow college courses to be given on site, teachers who are also qualified to teach high-demand community college courses are ideal; Master’s degrees are a useful step toward that qualification.

Counseling Staff. Consists of an academic counselor, responsible for registration and tracking of credits and test outcomes; a social worker, responsible for psychosocial counseling and referrals to social services; a community liaison, responsible for attendance; a part-time parent liaison; and a part-time nurse. A clerk supports the academic counselor.

Academic Counselor (see the Academic Counseling section below). The academic counselor is responsible for everything required to enroll students in CCTA. The academic counselor develops and maintains working relationships with counterparts in the high schools, the pupil accounting office, and the community college to ensure that credits are accurately logged and communicated. The academic counselor works with the principal to determine the most appropriate schedule for each student, cross enrolls students in the appropriate courses at the community college, and calculates class ranks. The academic counselor works closely with the social worker to ensure that students’ needs and barriers to success are identified and addressed. A clerk supports the academic counselor.

Social Worker. The social worker ensures that each student gets the services and counseling necessary to eliminate barriers to success. This may involve help with housing, child care, transportation, medical needs, psychological counseling, or even locating warm clothing for cooler months. The social worker works with the community liaison to follow up on absent students, develops and maintains relationships with social service providers, and counsels students.

Community Liaison. The community liaison serves as an attendance officer, providing assistance in interpreting and enforcing compulsory attendance laws and addressing truancy and excessive absences. The liaison collects attendance reports from teachers twice a day (morning and afternoon sessions) and calls absent students to determine why they are absent and when they will return. The community liaison makes home visits to students who appear to be chronically absent or at risk of dropping out to help them solve problems and to motivate them to return to school. The community liaison reports to the principal on student attendance and follow-up activities twice a day. The liaison represents the district to parents, law enforcement, court personnel, and others as necessary regarding student attendance. For more information, see Attendence Strategies.

Transition Counselor: The transition counselor is based at South Texas College and works with each student to support the transition from high school into college. The transition counselor helps students navigate and resolve school-related, family, or financial issues that may impede their education and advancement. The counselor’s primary duties entail providing intensive career advising, preparation, and planning services while connecting youth to college and to career-track employment.

Parent Liaison: The parent liaison fosters connections among the school, the parent/caregiver, and the student. The liaison is responsible for setting and conducting bimonthly parent meetings, conducting annual reviews of Title I- PAC meetings and monitoring student attendance. The liaison works with a target group of students who require home visits and phone calls for attendance purposes. The liaison reports all findings to the principal according to the days assigned to the campus. Other duties are based on the activities taking place on campus such as graduation set-up and attendance incentives.


academic counseling at ccta

The role of the academic counselor at PSJA’s College, Career and Technology Academy includes intake but does not stop there. Read key principles below and access more details on the academic counselor’s roles and responsibilities and yearly schedule of activities.

KEY PRINCIPLES FOR ACADEMIC COUNSELING AT CCTA

MAKE RELATIONSHIPS CENTRAL

At CCTA, the academic counselor:

  • Builds a relationship with incoming students
  • Builds relationships with district personnel responsible for student data
  • Builds relationships with a network of employers
  • Builds relationships with the gatekeepers at social service agencies throughout the community

USE THE INTAKE PROCESS TO SET THE STAGE FOR A STUDENT'S EXPERIENCE

At CCTA, the academic counselor:

  • Ensures that the atmosphere of intake interviews is positive
  • Explores the incoming student’s responsibilities, such as work and child care, to determine the best schedule for the student: morning or afternoon session or, as a last resort, flexible schedule

BUILD IN MORE, RATHER THAN LESS, STRUCTURE FOR STUDENTS

At CCTA, the academic counselor:

  • Considers the flexible schedule option (see INTAKE DETAILS section for more information), which allows students to set their own schedules, as the option of last resort (see section on Financing for an explanation)
  • Sits down with all students on flexible scheduling every six weeks, to review their situations as a precursor to requesting reauthorization of flexible scheduling

MAKE COLLEGE-GOING A CENTRAL ASPECT OF THE SCHOOL

At CCTA, the academic counselor:

  •  Explains that as soon as possible, students will be enrolled in mini-mesters, the dual enrollment program with South Texas College
  • Introduces students to the GO Center, where they can get information on college opportunities
  • Explains how South Texas College makes transitioning to college easy for CCTA graduates

ARRANGE SCHEDULE TO ENSURE AVAILABLITY AND ACCESSIBLITY

At CCTA, the academic counselor:

  • Greets students at the beginning and end of the day
  • Visits classes frequently to maintain relationships
  • Meets with students whenever they request it
  • Sees each student eligible for mini-mesters prior to finalizing mini-mester enrollment
  • Contacts students and arranges meetings based on academic needs
  • Works closely with the social worker to ensure that students’ needs and barriers to success are identified and addressed
  • Visits classes during the mentor period

HELP STUDENTS TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN EDUCATION

At CCTA, the academic counselor:

  • Requires students to gather the necessary paperwork that shows credit has been completed. Having the student make the effort to inform the counselor of the achievement rather than chasing students for this information puts the responsibility on the shoulders of the student, building each student’s ownership of his or her education.

Governance and leadership at ccta

The College, Career & Technology Academy has a set of key governance and leadership features that are critical to its success. As a small school, CCTA is led by a principal who has the authority, autonomy, and budget to run the campus as a full-fledged entity within the district, with the resources to reflect that status. The CCTA principal reports directly to the district superintendent and is supported by an assistant principal.

 

KEY PRINCIPLES FOR GOVERNANCE AND LEADERSHIP AT CCTA

CCTA IS A SEPARATE SCHOOL WITH THE AUTONOMY AND RESOURCES TO FULFILL ITS MISSION

  • CCTA is autonomous school, led by a principal, with its own budget that enables it to meet its mission of preparing reengaged dropouts or non-completers for postsecondary success. 

CREATE A SHARED VISION OF COLLEGE-GOING STUDENTS

  • CCTA shares the PSJA district vision: that each student will graduate college-ready and college-connected, and that each student will complete college. Every staff person–from the principal through the security guard at the door–shares this vision and participates in making it a reality.

BASE ALL DECISIONS ON THAT SHARED VISION

  • With an articulated vision, it becomes easier to make decisions: everything must fit the vision. This high degree of intentionality brings focus. For example, CCTA makes available only those mini-mester courses that lead to high-skill careers, authorizes field trips that involve exposure to college, and brings in speakers who motivate students towards college and careers.
  • The principal keeps the vision front and center through action and words. For example, she clearly conveys in all school materials, and in leading professional development for staff, that the goal of the school is to ensure that students graduate ready for postsecondary success.

CHOOSE AN INSTRUCTIONAL APPROACH AND PROVIDE INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP AROUND THAT APPROACH

  • To ensure that students are academically prepared for college, CCTA embraces the Common Instructional Framework (CIF), a set of six teaching strategies that are used in all content areas and provide coherence across the curriculum. To enable teachers to use the CIF with fidelity requires active instructional leadership. The principal uses CIF strategies in staff meetings and professional development activities, modeling their use, talking about them constantly and focusing all professional development activities around them. 

PROVIDE TEACHERS WITH THE TOOLS THEY NEED TO REACH THE VISION

  • CCTA organizes the daily schedule to enable staff to have shared planning and professional development time.
  • CCTA seeks financial and other resources aggressively and creatively.

CREATE A LEARNING CULTURE FOR STAFF AS WELL AS FOR STUDENTS

  • CCTA makes the environment safe to take risks. The principal gives teachers the support they need to master the Common Instructional Framework and encourages them to try out new ideas.

USE DATA TO MAKE DECISIONS

  • CCTA decides upon the data that will be used and follows concrete timeframes for gathering, reviewing, evaluating, and making decisions.
  • The school strives to apply this approach when evaluating new staff, new students, new procedures, and new initiatives, such as, for example, pairing students to take responsibility for each other’s attendance.

SHARE DATA SO EVERYONE HAS OWNERSHIP

  • The principal uses staff and departmental meetings as well as committees to share concrete data about the students’ academics, attendance, and college enrollment all staff "own" the challenges and the successes.

DIVIDE TASKS AND BUILD CAPACITY

  • CCTA assigns administrative tasks to the assistant principal in order to free her to focus on instructional leadership.
  • At the same time, the principal seeks to build the assistant principal’s capacity to provide instructional leadership as well, such as conducting classroom visits and planning and leading professional development activities.

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