With the end of summer break nearing, schools are making final decisions about who will be teaching in their classrooms this fall, but the work to fill those spots started months ago.
Local schools needed to hire more than 70 teachers to fill open positions at the end of last school year when other teachers retired or left for another job.
In the past, one position would draw hundreds of applications, but that hasn’t been the case in recent years, school officials said.
Administrators have learned they have to start looking for new teachers early and make the job appealing. For example, Clark-Pleasant schools hosted a job fair in the spring and hired at least three new elementary school teachers, even though the district didn’t have any open positions at the time, Clark-Pleasant schools superintendent Patrick Spray said.
Since then, all of those teachers have been placed in a classroom for the fall, filling just a few of the 40 openings the school district had this summer, he said.
Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools sends administrators to job fairs that area colleges host to spark interest in the school district, superintendent Timothy Edsell said.
That proactive approach is necessary since the pool of applicants has been shrinking in recent years. While an elementary school teaching position may have drawn hundreds of applications years ago, now it only brings in about 50, he said.
“Even in areas where in past decades, social studies, health and PE, elementary, there has always been a surplus of applicants, we are noticing a shallow pool where there is not a surplus of applicants,” Edsell said.
For more specialized positions, such as high school sciences or special education, the candidate pool is even smaller, school officials said.
The same is true for administration positions, Franklin schools superintendent David Clendening said. For example, the school district only received 13 applications when replacing the high school principal, he said.
“People are just not sure they want to do it,” Clendening said.
Greenwood schools hasn’t had an opening in administration recently, but officials are concerned that when that does happen, they will struggle to find applicants due to the shortage, Greenwood schools superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.
Special education teaching positions is also a key area that is difficult to fill, DeKoninck said.
Those were some of the positions the school district advertised as early as possible, along with a high school French teacher that was posted in March and a science position posted in April, he said.
“In the old days, you didn’t post until June or so, you waited to see the money, and even that was considered early,” DeKoninck said.
“Now, districts, when they know of openings in the spring, they are posting it.”
Greenwood still gets a large number of applicants when a position opens, but that number is falling, he said.
But DeKoninck hopes that trend could be changing soon. Colleges are reporting an increase in the number of students majoring in education, he said.
Concerns about pay, legislation aimed at teachers, testing issues and an overall lack of respect for the profession has led to fewer students going into education as a career, but that is starting to change, he said.
State lawmakers set aside more funding for education and more respect is being shown for the field, and he hopes that will lead to more college students majoring in education and becoming teachers in the future, he said.