MLFTC works with Arizona’s largest school district to revamp human resources strategy


Meghan Ensell

Arizona schools struggle to attract, retain and advance qualified, diverse and effective teachers and school leaders. Every year, the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association releases a survey that underscores the human resources challenges faced by Arizona schools.  

Mesa Public Schools is Arizona’s largest school district. MPS primarily serves the city of Mesa and parts of its adjacent cities, including Apache Junction, Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe, along with the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community. The student population is racially and economically diverse. Of the district’s 80 schools, 64 are Title I schoolwide eligible, while half of the student population in 31 of the schools is eligible for free or reduced lunch. And Mesa, like most schools in Arizona, is struggling to retain full-time teachers, substitutes, teachers, paraeducators and support staff.  

To address its human resources challenges in a systemic, sustainable way, MPS is working closely with ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, aided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. 

The project, Building Human Capital Management Systems to Support the Next Education Workforce in Mesa Public Schools, or NEW@MPS, is spearheaded by Brent Maddin, executive director of MLFTC’s Next Education Workforce initiative, and Justin Wing, assistant superintendent of human resources at MPS.

Through the project, MLFTC and MPS are building Next Education Workforce models in at least 17 of the district’s high-need schools. These models establish teams of educators that share rosters of students and adapt instruction to meet the individual needs of each student, leveraging expertise among certified teachers, paraeducators and other adults in an educational role. 

“The project aims to provide educators with opportunities for personalized, professional growth,” says Wing. “We also want to diversify the education workforce while equipping educators with the skills to work with diversified learners and colleagues. And all of this is in the service of delivering on the promise of what we call ‘portrait of a graduate’, which is a set of academic and social-emotional learning outcomes we strive for.”

Maddin notes that “Human Capital Management Systems is a pretty bureaucratic-sounding bunch of words.”  

“But,” he adds, “it describes the human heart of what makes education work or not work for both students and teachers. When we talk about teacher shortages, what we’re really talking about are human relationships that are not happening between students and teachers — and about professional jobs that are not sustainable for teachers. If people are leaving education jobs, we have to do more than talk about pipelines. We have to give people reasons to stay in the profession. We have to increase the likelihood that educators will be effective, satisfied and enjoy the rewards that come with collaboration and specialization. That’s what this work is about.”   

Learn more about the project.

Read more about the Next Education Workforce

COVID-19 information