Leandra Bates, an administrative education analyst in the Department of Education’s central Bronx office, serves as the human resources director for 34 elementary schools in the Bronx. In 2016, more than 450 administrative education analysts and officers working in DOE offices became UFT members.
What does your job entail?
I participate in the staffing of District 10 schools, confirming certification and licensing for our teachers, paraprofessionals and quite a few other school-based staff members like secretaries.
I imagine that must look different depending on the time of year.
We’re participating in the hiring process all year long, but we’re at a peak between April and September. Once the dust settles, there are all the other things that come with being hired. There are staff members who have been hired and have to make sure their certification is up to date. We get reports from central DOE about people whose certification is about to expire. Teachers need me to sign off on verifying their employment. We’re making sure their mentorship hours are logged in. There are many things happening in the background that we have to keep on top of.
What does the hiring process look like from your end?
If you are interested in teaching in District 10, either you submit your resume to one of our schools or you’re attending a job fair. Last year I attended eight to 10 job fairs and spoke to potential teachers about what to expect. I spent 20 years in HR in the private sector but I’ve only worked for the DOE two years, so I want to be in school buildings to see the process. Some of my principals have said, “We’re scheduling a demo lesson, you’re welcome to sit in,” and I absolutely go in. In the Bronx, we tend to get a jump-start on hiring the Teaching Fellows. So principals will reach out to me and say, “Leandra, I’m interested in this teacher; can you confirm their certification?” I will let my principals know: You have one candidate who still needs to go to 55 Court St. in Brooklyn to be fingerprinted, you have one candidate who hasn’t paid the $135 service fee, you have one candidate who did pay but something was flagged in their background check.
What does it take to get hired in District 10?
I find the candidates who are very proactive, the ones who will email you about every step they’re taking in the hiring process, end up being the teachers who actually stick around. Also, one of the strategies that’s been awesome has been having candidates come visit our schools, meet with staff members and sit in on classrooms. A lot of teachers apply willy-nilly to jobs, but they don’t always take the time to look at where the school physically is. I always tell my candidates to do the footwork and get an invitation to one of our schools; come to our communities and see where you can make a difference.
You worked in the private sector for 20 years. What has it been like to become a member of a union?
It makes you feel a level of security in what your contract entails. I’m that person on the beach flipping through my contract since it pertains to my livelihood, and I’m trying to understand what resources are available to me and to other members. I see this as a career, not just a job. I want to make sure I can answer the questions that new hires ask. The information in the union contract is clearer than the documentation available to me on the DOE HR exchange.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
OK, here’s the part I’ve always liked about being in HR. I met a candidate at a job fair and got him hired as a special education teacher. It was his very first job ever. He sent me this long email that thanked me for walking him through the process step by step and helping him with his dream of becoming a teacher. I got a little emotional because I, too, remember what it was like to get my first job, to put 150 percent in and realize that I made the right decision.
— As told to reporter Rachel Nobel