Brian Butler

Brian K. Butler is an education consultant with over 30 years of experience who has worked with thousands of schools throughout the U.S.A., Australia and Canada presenting on the PLC at Work and RTI at Work models. Brian is a retired a principal who last served at Mason Crest Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia in 2017. Under Brian’s leadership, Mason Crest received Solution Tree’s first annual DuFour Award in 2016.

The PLC Hiring Process at Mason Crest Elementary

In their new book The School Leader’s Guide to Professional Learning Communities at Work™ (2012), Rick and Becky DuFour write about the hiring process that should take place when "bringing new members into the PLC culture." As a principal who is in the process of opening a new school with my assistant principal and administrative partner Diane Kerr, we are heeding their advice and suggestions around hiring in order to "create a school" that functions as a true professional learning community, not to merely "open a building."

There are a number of steps to the process that we believe are helping to give us the best chance, as Jim Collins says in his book Good to Great (2001), to "get the right people in the right seats on the bus." Things like including other staff members on the interview panel and asking interviewees questions around the three big ideas of the PLC process are helping us to ascertain who the right people are. In the interviews, we are asking questions like:

  1. Imagine that we are about to begin our fourth year, and we have become the school that you hoped we would become. Describe as vividly as possible what is going on in the school?
  2. What happens if many of the students who come to us aren’t particularly motivated or their parents don’t get involved? Could we still be a great school?
  3. What is your understanding of the term formative assessment? How do you use formative assessment in the classroom?
  4. At our school, we have high expectations for all students. What does that mean to you, and what does that look like in the classroom?
  5. On a team, there are many roles. Talk about the different roles that you have played as a team member.

These are only a few of the questions that we have asked, but they immediately help our team get a good picture as to whether or not the candidate will embrace the PLC process. Although including staff members on the panel and asking the right questions have been key to getting the right people on board, we have added a piece to the process that we have found to be just as important. When the candidate comes to the interview, they are given 15 minutes beforehand to read a document that Diane and I created with the help of two of my now retired mentors, Betsy Fenske, a former assistant superintendent and principal, and Dr. Carolyn Miller, a wonderful principal who first introduced me to the PLC concept. This three-page document has been a godsend. In some cases, it has weeded out candidates who have said that they could not agree to all of these expectations, but more importantly, it has helped candidates who see themselves as true fits to the PLC culture affirm why they chose to join our team. This process has helped us to be clear with where we are headed and has allowed us to get the "right people on the bus." As Collins says, these “people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great” (p. 42). The following is the expectations document that we give all candidates.

Related Documents

Staff Expectations and Collective Commitments for Mason Crest Elementary


Cassie Hertzenberg

We are entering the hiring process for next school year and as we work to continue to try to "create a school" that functions as a true professional learning community and be the school we are trying to become I have been searching for better interview questions that will help us determine who the right candidates are. I came across your article and was excited to hear about your process. Thank you so much for your leadership! I heard you speak at the institute in San Antonio!!

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Rae Conelley

Brian, your advice makes so much sense! The opportunity to open a new school, as you stated, is so much more than opening a building. Creating a place where the adults collaborate and learn from one another in order to help students reach their potential is what it's all about! I appreciate the commitment you, Diane, and your staff have made to creating a healthy learning environment for your community as well as sharing your journey with others!

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