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Episode 6 – A Quality Educator in Front of Our Students Every Day

June 14, 2023 | Season: 1 | Episode: 6 | 24 minutes

Today’s episode is about our staffing efforts and a few of the key initiatives directly supporting our educators. This work includes our outreach in recruitment and hiring, a competitive wage and benefits package, starting our new educators on the right foot with New Educator Orientation, and strengthening our classrooms with National Board Certified educators.

Joining Dr. Martirano today will be two guests: Ella Bradley, Coordinator for Human Capital Recruitment, Retention, and Talent Acquisition; and Julianne Dibble, Director of Teacher and Paraprofessional Development & Support.

We’re so thankful that you joined us for our inaugural season of Inside HCPSS. While the school year is over for our students, much of our staff will be jumping into action over the summer to prepare for the upcoming school year. So as we bring the first season to a close with this episode, we’ll be taking a brief podcasting break and will bring you Season 2 after the new school year begins this Fall.

← Additional episodes of Inside HCPSS


  • Ella Bradley
    Coordinator, Human Capital Recruitment, Retention, and Talent Acquisition
  • Juliann Dibble
    Director, Teacher and Paraprofessional Development & Support



Narrator: Welcome to the Inside HCPSS podcast, a podcast produced by the Howard County Public School System centered around conversations with HCPSS Superintendent, Dr. Michael J. Martirano.

Today’s episode is about our staffing efforts and a few of the key initiatives directly supporting our educators. This work includes our outreach in recruitment and hiring, a competitive wage and benefits package, starting our new educators on the right foot with New Educator Orientation, and strengthening our classrooms with National Board Certified educators.

Joining Dr. Martirano today will be two guests: Ella Bradley, Coordinator for Human Capital Recruitment, Retention, and Talent Acquisition; and Juliann Dibble, Director of Teacher and Paraprofessional Development & Support.

We hope you enjoy this conversation about our staffing efforts.

Dr. Martirano: Greetings, everyone. And I’m Dr. Michael Martirano, the proud superintendent of the Howard County Public School System. Today we are going to be talking about something very significant to our school system, is the focus on our staffing efforts, and recognizing that we have some just tremendous employees in the Howard County Public School System who work on behalf of our students every day and do a phenomenal job. So, before I go any further, I just want to thank all of our teachers and our staff members for the work that they do on behalf of many, many children in our school system each and every day.

And additionally, 84% of our total school system budget is dedicated to the employees as far as benefits, and salaries, and compensation, and also recognizing that one of our biggest challenges right now is addressing the ongoing need to have proper and excellent staff in each and every one of our classrooms.

Today, I have two wonderful guests with me. I have Ms. Ella Bradley, who is our Human Capital Recruiter, Retention, and Talent Acquisition Coordinator. And yes, that’s a long title with a lot of responsibility. And also I have Ms. Juliann Dibble, who is our Director of Teacher Paraprofessional Development. So, I’m gonna start. We’re just gonna get right into this conversation today. Ella, if you would, begin to frame this for our community around the topic of the issue associated with our teacher shortage, our staff shortage, the intensity of which we approach this, and all the variables that you are addressing each and every day around this particular topic.

Ella: As the coordinator overseeing the recruitment process for Howard County, one of the things that we really focus a lot on is recruiting. It is so critical that every school and every student has a teacher, a qualified teacher in their classroom in front of them. They’re spending a good portion of their day with these individuals, and we wanna make sure that they are learning and growing. And so in order to do that, we need to make sure that we have individuals who are present, who are qualified, who have a desire to be and work with children, who love children, and who wanna support our vision and our mission.

What we are facing at Howard County is nothing new in terms of what other counties in the state of Maryland and what every school system is facing across the nation. Everyone is facing issues in terms of finding qualified individuals to be in front of our students. So, this is not anything that’s unusual for Howard County. It’s not a Howard County problem. It is definitely a nationwide problem.

MSDE, the Maryland State Department of Education, put out a report and said that over the last 10 years, the number of individuals going into education has dropped 33%. That’s quite significant. And so Maryland has always been an import state, meaning that we’ve never had enough teachers graduating from all of our colleges and universities to support all of the needs in the state of Maryland. So, we’ve always needed to outsource and look outside of our borders. We’re seeing that issue even more so now because there are so fewer individuals going into education and coming out of a four-year program.

So, what does that mean for us? When I’m looking to try to staff all of our schools with my team, that means we have to think in two buckets, recruiting and retention.

So, we’re doing a variety of different things from virtual recruiting events. We’re doing in-person recruiting events. One of our biggest recruiting events is called Educators of Color. And it’s a wonderful opportunity for individuals to come and learn about Howard County. What’s different about it is a full-day event. They’re going to hear from different system leaders, including you Dr. Martirano, and to learn a little bit about what it is that we believe in here in Howard County. What is our vision? What is our mission? And what do we stand for?

After they hear the opening remarks, then they are going to tour our schools because who’s better to sell our school system and to show these prospective teachers who we are than our students?

Dr. Martirano: Great.

Ella: Really give them an opportunity to see how diverse our school system is and to really get to know who we are and to get the feeling of being in our schools. We also have a teacher panel for them to learn what is it like in a day of being an educator here in Howard County Public Schools.

So, showcasing that. No matter how you come, we’re gonna take care of you. And once you’re here, then my colleague, Juliann, wraps her arms around these individuals and provides them that support and that professional development to ensure that they are successful.

Dr. Martirano: Very good. You talked about a number of things, and all of this is… When I’m talking to individuals and our students, I always provide the why. Why is the intensity right now so important to us? Because it’s highly competitive. There is a shortage across the nation, and we recognize what our data tells us in the research is that regardless of all the other supports that we provide for our children to ensure quality instruction and a quality education, we must provide the very best teacher in front of our children every day. And so with that level of intensity, our velocity has picked up as far as our recruitment efforts.

You’ve highlighted a number of the events, particularly one regarding our recruitment, teacher of color. And we have this beautiful student body that is very diverse, and it is my expectation that our student body is reflected also in terms of the teachers which we hire. I want every child to see someone like them in the teaching workforce. And so that’s an incredible focus on that and the intensity of our recruitment efforts. But you’ve also then led into a segue about ongoing support in other alternative pathways for what we’re doing to recruit and retain teachers. Juliann, take that a step further with us in our efforts that we’re doing that are defined as non-traditional, but also innovative in our approach.

Juliann: So, one of our most successful programs is our para-to-teacher pathway program. And we started on this journey in the summer of 2019 with an MAT Special Ed program up with one of our university partners, and with an undergraduate elementary program. And last June, we graduated 17 of our former paras who are now all teachers in our schools. And this May, we will graduate 24 from our undergraduate program. So, these are our para-educators who work in our schools every day, who care for our children, who live in the communities where they work, and who have dedicated their lives to children and to teaching and learning. And now they are becoming empowered. They are becoming skilled. They’re becoming certificated because we’ve been able to eliminate the financial barriers and other institutional barriers that often prevent our educational support professionals from pursuing degrees. And so we’re particularly proud of them, and we hope that they’ll have a vibrant career in our system, and we’re just thrilled at how hard they have worked.

When you think about those numbers that I’m sharing, remember that their schooling was all during COVID. We had to transition very quickly into online learning and co-create what those models and what that rigor would look like, all the while supporting their own families and their own students to achieve this. So, we’re replicating those programs. We had an undergraduate program that started this summer. We had an MAT program that started this summer. So, between our paras and our conditional hires, we’re looking to start an MAT cohort every year, an undergraduate para-to-teacher pathway every other year. And we are pursuing alternative funding sources that we hope will enable us to continue this work, again, to offset the tuition cost, to offset the support of teacher leaders, mentoring and coaching those candidates to successful program completion.

Dr. Martirano: Absolutely. And we’re talking recruitment and retention. We want our teachers to stay with us and our staff to stay with us for long periods of time for a number of positive reasons for our students. Now, let’s continue with the conversation with talking a little further about the “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future”. A lot of conversation about the legislation as a statewide effort to improve the quality of instruction for our students. And a major pillar of that is associated with staffing, with teacher salaries, compensation, career ladders. There’s a whole number of items associated with it. Talk, if you would, Ella, about the need to have a competitive wage in salaries for our teachers and for our staff as it ties into the competitive nature of recruitment of teachers.

Ella: At the end of the day, our teachers have to pay their bills as well, just like everyone else. And we want to entice individuals in two ways. One, to come into the profession of education. I think so many individuals still have the mindset that teachers are not paid well or do not start off well in terms of right out of college. And when you think about the fact that you can be a new grad and making $60,000, that’s pretty competitive. Howard County has always been very competitive with their salaries because we also recognize that we are landlocked in terms of a variety of other counties that are near us.

We have other counties that we have to be competitive with. And one way to be competitive is with our salaries. We have excellent benefits. We have tuition reimbursement. We have excellent people who take care of you as well. But those things may not be as visible when you are first initially engaging in the opportunity or thinking about whether or not you wanna switch jobs. That initial sticker of how much am I going to make is something that definitely catches someone’s eye.

Dr. Martirano: So, all of these recruiting events that we’re doing is an opportunity to allow us to showcase the wonderful supports which we provide within our school system. And so once we hire and we’re taking care of the benefits and the salaries, we also hear from our teachers who want the ongoing professional development. Talk a little bit, if you would, Juliann, about the induction process for our teachers, the New Educator Orientation. And once teachers do come with us and our staff members, what can they expect?

Juliann: We have a very comprehensive teacher induction program for the first three years that our new hires are with us. And it does begin with New Educator Orientation. That’s sort of our kickoff to the event. And then we follow with the assignment of an instructional mentor. So, instructional mentors are central office and school-based staff who have been trained in observation and hold certificates and provide mentoring support for our new hires during that first year that they are with us. We also have a three-day professional learning experience called Framework in Action II in year one that sort of guides our new hires towards what we call the “what of teaching,” provides the Charlotte Danielson Framework. And it begins that conversation about how to actualize it with an equity mindset.

And that leads into a three-day experience in year two, which is really focused on the why and how we teach, bringing in the themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion, bringing in student voice, thinking about cultural competence, what are the instructional strategies? And the way in which we engage students in learning and build relationships with them that makes teaching and learning different here than in other places because of our commitment.

We also have a vibrant continuing professional development catalog that we offer classes every semester. So, it provides new and our changing demographic of new hires, opportunities to build on the skills they already have, and potentially have choice in the needs that they have in terms of what they pursue.

And we have a tremendous number of teacher leadership opportunities in our district, again, for teacher leaders to be elevated to a position of teacher development liaison, of diversity, equity inclusion liaison, of professional development school liaison. So, opportunities to lead from the classroom and also be a participant in school-wide and county-wide professional learning.

Dr. Martirano: Exactly. And going back to the Blueprint again, one of the things I wanna make very clear is that the floor for the Blueprint states that by a certain year, all of our teachers in the state of Maryland will be making $60,000. And for Howard County, that is the floor. We want to go beyond that to maintain our level of competitiveness. But also contained in the Blueprint as one of the major pieces to move that forward as in salaries is there are additional focus on National Board Certified Teachers. And we already have provided a variety of different levels in terms of recruitment and retention, but let’s talk a little bit more about what it means to be a national board teacher.

Juliann: We’ve always been very proud of our National Board Certification program. We pride ourselves in the type of supports that we have created organically here. And our program, because of the incentives has exploded. We have our national board-certified teachers teaching as adjunct faculty in many of our institutional partnerships, especially those para-to-teacher pathways, so that our teacher candidates can learn from curriculum experts in our system. Our candidate support provider process leverages those National Board Certified teachers to actually help people and guide people, mentor and coach people through the process, having walked that walk.

We also have our national board-certified teachers teaching in a post-baccalaureate program. So, candidates who want to pursue national board have local supports that happen every week in our school system, but they also can receive a four-course post-baccalaureate degree, which can then plug into a master’s in curriculum or a master’s in school administration, or any further masters or doctorate supports. And it’s our National Board teachers who are becoming adjunct faculty. So, it’s a part of the Blueprint while we work to negotiate the career ladder. We are modeling aspects of that every chance that we can with our highly qualified, highly effective educators.

Dr. Martirano: So, if I’m a new teacher coming into the school system, I can expect, one, a very competitive wage package with benefits, outstanding supports. I can expect to be greeted in the school system with an induction program that supports me as I’m developing my skills and processes. I’m entering my classroom to teach our young people. And then also on that continuum is further development through the National Board Certified Teacher program as well. So, there is a whole continuum of processes. Juliann, just one more piece on the National Board Certified Teachers. There’s additional compensation for that rigorous requirement that is also a benefit for our teachers. Could you define that a little further?

Juliann: There is. There’s a $10,000 stipend that once a teacher achieves, they will continue to get and they can renew that after 5 years. So, there definitely is a financial incentive, but I also believe that our teachers are also looking for those leadership opportunities, whether it’s internally to lead professional learning or a continuing professional development course, and/or to function as adjunct faculty to be the teachers who lead learning at New Educator Orientation or on curricular learning day. So, there’s lots of opportunities in terms of finances as well as leadership.

Dr. Martirano: So, again, this complete package we are not letting anything to chance. And Ella, I want to go back to you to really emphasize the importance of recruiting and what that looks like for us throughout the year. This is just not something that occurs in the summer.

Ella: Correct.

Dr. Martirano: This has really shifted with the national shortage of teachers and how we approach that. And we’ve provided some detail thus far, but I really want to lift that up for our community so they understand that.

Ella: We do a variety of different outreach. When I think back about how I was recruited, it was the traditional job fair at your college or university, and it was table after table. And while those job fairs do still occur, and we still attend job fairs at our local universities, our different HBCUs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, we go way beyond that. We have things like information sessions that are virtual, and this allows the passive applicant to participate and to learn more about Howard County.

And what I mean by a passive applicant is someone who’s thinking about switching a county, someone who’s thinking about becoming a teacher and attending a virtual session for 60 minutes, 90 minutes, where it doesn’t really cause any interruption to your day. You can still make dinner for your family. You can listen to it in your car. You can listen to it at work, where you can engage with HR folks. You can engage with curriculum individuals. You can learn more about the county to see if that’s something you wanna pursue. So, we really capitalize that, and you can learn about it with various panel members and teachers to learn more about what it’s like to truly work in Howard County.

We also do more targeted information sessions too. So, with the Blueprint, there’s a need for additional early childhood teachers. So, we were really targeting early childhood teachers, whether it was in our community or even among our teachers. So, this is something that we are rolling out due to Blueprint. If you’re interested, this is what you need to do in order to get the endorsement to be an early childhood teacher or to become an early childhood teacher.

We’re also looking at our data, what is going on with our applications? Where are we getting people from? We’re gonna be doing another information session for teachers, current teachers in other school systems, and to learn what it’s like to transfer into Howard County. For example, many people may not know that we accept up to 17 years of teaching experience.

Dr. Martirano: Correct.

Ella: And so what that means is if you are working in Pennsylvania or another school system for 10, 11, 12 years, you’re not gonna start at Step 1. You’re gonna come in. We’re gonna recognize the experience and that value that you come for our students, and we’re gonna recognize that with the monetary step. We’re also creating opportunities for people to learn more about our system by the way we engage with them. You know, a lot of times people will say, “I chose Howard County because you answered the phone, because you answered my email, because you took that extra time to learn.”

Dr. Martirano: Personal touch.

Ella: I had an individual call me yesterday, and they were from Pennsylvania, and I was like, “Where in Pennsylvania?” Because I’m from Pennsylvania. And so we started talking about living in Pennsylvania and what it’s like to move to the state of Maryland and my experience with that.

So, really personalizing each individual person as much as possible, because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, is that connection. And can you see yourself in Howard County and make this your home? And my team and myself, we are one of the very first people that they engage with a lot of times. And we wanna make sure that we represent the true heart of Howard County.

Dr. Martirano: Absolutely. And it’s not a passive process. It’s got to be a very assertive process where we’re addressing this all day long. So, we’ve covered a lot of territory. The time has flown by so quickly, and I believe we’ve just begun to scratch the surface in terms of all the work that our offices are doing regarding the recruitment and retention of all of our staff and all the different pathways that we also discussed. And then lifting up further our professional development schools and our interns and our relationships with higher education, another major tool of which we do.

So, as we wrap up today’s episode, this is a space of which I spend lots of time thinking about and focusing on with our efforts because we, one, want to thank all of our amazing teachers and staff for what they do every day. And what we need to continue to provide is what is most best for our students and our supports for them, and that is providing a quality educator working with them every day. And our efforts are great to achieve our academic goals for all of our students. So, I’m most pleased with the discussion today.

I will end on a personal note to say to folk, if you are interested in working for the Howard County Public School system, I will give you my personal email address, which is And please shoot us an email and we will get back to you, recognizing we want the very best teachers working with our students and the very best staff members working with our students every day.

Narrator: And thank you for joining us and listening to this podcast episode. We’re so thankful that you joined us for our inaugural season of Inside HCPSS. While the school year is over for our students, much of our staff will be jumping into action over the summer to prepare for the upcoming school year. So as we bring Season 1 to a close with this episode, we’ll be taking a brief podcasting break and will bring you Season 2 after the new school year begins this Fall.

If you liked this episode of Inside HCPSS and want to make sure you’ll get the notified when the first episode of Season 2 is available, please subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast program or share an episode online at

To learn more about working for HCPSS and our great staff development opportunities, visit us online at

Talk to you this Fall.