Energized. Inspired. Powered up. 

However you phrase it, that’s how our team is feeling after attending and presenting at last week’s American Association of School Personnel Administrators’ 85th Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA. Want to tap into some of that energy? Here are a few of my takeaways:

New Year, New Attendees, New Records

Last year’s AASPA conference attendance of 780+ set a record.

This year, as Rhodes Branding joined AASPA leaders in welcoming first-time conference attendees at a special reception, Executive Director Kelly Coash-Johnson excitedly shared that this year’s number exceeded 900! 



Not only was the overall conference attendance a record-breaker, the First-Time Attendee Reception was packed with roughly 70 folks! 

First time attendee reception at AASPA conference

We were delighted to be part of the welcome party, led by Dr. Dale Fisher, 2022-23 AASPA President, who’d dropped some “before you go” knowledge with us in a pre-conference podcast.

Human Capital Requires Human Investment

We caught up with another friend (and podcast guest) Dr. Don Killingbeck, Superintendent of Hemlock Public School District, in his session, “43 Ways to Be Less Lame in Talent Acquisition,” with Anna Wamack, HPSD Director of Business Operations and Human Resources.

One way to be less lame? 

“Invest in your people,” said Killingbeck.

Killingbeck referenced the common fear among HR departments of spending money on training, onboarding, and professional development for new employees – only to have them leave within a year. But if that hesitancy means a new employee joins a district without being set up for success, the HR department may have an even bigger problem on their hands: at best, an ill-equipped and inefficient employee or at worst, a “culture killer” in a school.

“Are you afraid of investing a bunch of money in onboarding a new employee, and then they leave?” Killingbeck asked. “What’s even worse is not investing in them, and they stay.” 

And that investment in growing human capital needs to extend beyond the first 30-60-90 days of employment, if schools want to attract and retain Millennial and Gen Z teachers.

Generational Hiring in the K-12 Sector

Why should K-12 recruiters care so much about Millennials (born 1981-1996) and Gen Z (born 1997-2012)? Because they’re quickly becoming the majority of the candidate pool. 

As my Gen Z colleague Blake Sherman and I (a self-proclaimed “older” Millennial) shared in our session, Gen Z will comprise 25% of the workforce by 2025 – and Millennials will be twice that, according to global 2023 LinkedIn data. So as Gen Xers in education move into leadership positions, they must consider the values these younger generations prioritize in building their careers – if they want to recruit them to (and keep them in) their districts.

Gen Z prioritizes opportunities to advance within a company/organization, and opportunities to develop new skills. Since this generation tends to value stability and is focused on long-term career growth, Gen Z teachers and staff are more likely to stick around at a district if they see a path for advancement and can take advantage of skills development and ongoing training. 

Millennials are purpose-driven and want to find meaning in their work. We also value work-life balance and flexibility.

The latter can be a sticking point in K-12. Historically, school district processes can be pretty rigid – and some procedures are necessarily so! But applying generational recruiting strategy is an opportunity for district leaders to consider, “What’s in my circle of control? Where could we provide flexibility that our workforce and job candidates would value?” 

For one executive director of HR in California I spoke with, it means adding flexibility to contracts in regard to the 8-hour workday. Her contracts offer employees the daily flexibility to start work 30 minutes later (or leave 30 minutes earlier) if they opt for a 30-minute lunch break instead of the standard 1-hour. She says as long as employees are productive and providing value to the district for an 8-hour workday, offering 30-minute increments of flexibility is an easy incentive to meet the desires of her Millennial teachers and staff. 

For more insights on generational hiring strategies and how K-12 brands can apply them to their recruitment and retention efforts, access our full AASPA 2023 presentation below!

Ultimately, K-12 districts will recruit and retain quality educators and staff when they take the time to truly understand what they value in a work experience and long-term career, then endeavor to meet those needs. By incorporating these opportunities into its Employee Value Proposition, the district’s brand strategy will align with its candidates’ (and current employees’) goals. And everybody wins.

Director of Client Engagement at Rhodes Branding | Website | + posts

Molly is the liaison between education leaders and the agency, connecting the K-12 community with services designed to accelerate performance and market position. She leads content and partner engagement strategy and is a frequent conference presenter and podcast/blog guest. Molly likes to push it to the limit, and races competitively in Obstacle Course Races on the weekends.