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Blog | | TKCalifornia, Lodi USD

TK Expansion in Action: How Lodi Unified is Successfully Staffing New TK Classrooms

Our TK Expansion in Action blog series covers California’s Transitional Kindergarten (TK) expansion through interviews with school districts and institutes of higher learning across the state to highlight strategies they have employed to make expansion successful. This is the eleventh blog in the series which has been running since the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.

As California continues to move toward full expansion of Universal Transitional Kindergarten (UTK) by the 2025-26 school year, a key area districts are focused on for successful implementation is staff recruitment. Central Valley’s Lodi Unified School District (USD) developed and activated a strategic plan to engage new TK staff and has successfully reached full capacity. As districts continue their recruitment efforts for TK staff, Lodi USD’s efforts provide an example of strategic teacher recruitment and retention.

Following Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of AB 130 in 2021 to expand TK to all 4-year-olds, Lodi USD created a task force to support teachers, staff, and school administrators with TK implementation. This task force included various educational partners, such as the district preschool director, special education director, existing TK and preschool teachers, representatives from the district, and representatives from the Lodi Education Association, the union that represents Lodi USD teachers. 

By leveraging the expertise of its educators, Lodi USD ensured it had a strategic plan to abide by the state’s TK organizational recommendations. They focused on enrollment of families and hiring of TK teachers. The district conducted a multi-prong effort to enroll students, from an updated enrollment website and in-person enrollment to flyers, ads, commercials, and social media campaigns, all of which have been very successful. As of December 2023, Lodi USD has filled 96 percent of its available TK seats.

With seven new school sites offering TK at the start of the 2023-24 school year in addition to six existing sites, Lodi USD sought TK teachers with the appropriate credentials to staff its growing number of classrooms. Each TK classroom is required to have at least one lead TK teacher who must have a Multiple Subject Credential. The TK teacher must also, by the start of the 2025-26 school year, have at least 24 units of Early Childhood Education (ECE) or Child Development, a Child Development Permit, or comparable experience as determined by the local governing board of the employing Local Educational Agency (LEA).

Susan Petersen, Lodi USD’s director of education for area #1, found that the position was popular amongst the district’s pre-existing teacher workforce. With many interested teachers already having the appropriate ECE units, they were able to shift into the TK classroom. The remaining open positions for TK teachers in Lodi USD were filled with an intensive recruitment effort. Lodi USD hosted various recruitment activities, such as job fairs, that filled vacancies specifically in TK. The effort was conducted with aid from across Lodi USD’s offices, with support from the district’s Personnel Department, the Superintendent’s Office, and the Lodi USD Board of Education. And, with a planned total of twenty school sites to offer TK for the 2024-25 school year, the district is also working with the local County Office of Education to create pathways for interested teachers to acquire the appropriate ECE units.

Lodi USD’s task force also prioritized implementing developmentally-appropriate curriculum for TK students. The district adopted a new curriculum aligned with the California Foundational Standards for Early Learning, but wanted to ensure that educators had support with implementing this curriculum. Using funds from the Universal Prekindergarten Planning and Implementation Grant, Lodi USD created a plan for TK teachers. This plan includes three and a half days with the adopted curriculum and their curriculum consultant, which includes in-classroom teacher coaching. 

Lodi USD also supports its teachers with additional professional development throughout the school year. Using a professional learning model, the district ensures that every TK teacher receives beginning, middle, and end of year support. Starting in the 2024-25 school year, TK paraprofessionals will also receive in-person and virtual professional development. 

“I recently visited a TK classroom, and I was blown away. We have a play-based environment for students that is rich with choices, activities, and socioemotional learning opportunities. Watching teachers, from seasoned to new teachers, taking in this new program is amazing,” said Petersen. 

In coupling strong teacher recruitment strategies with teacher-coaching support systems, Lodi USD can boast of a fully-staffed TK program. 

“We are incredibly proud of our Lodi Unified teachers. The staffing of our TK program is perhaps what I’m most proud of,” Petersen said.  

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