Local school districts struggle to find qualified teachers before classes begin
With multiple openings for teachers still not filled, it can be stressful for school administrators.
BURLEY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Here in the Magic Valley some schools are still dealing with teacher shortages, with the start of a new school year only a few weeks away.
Cassia County has more than 5,000 students in its school district, and with the start of the school year a little more than two weeks away they are still short about six teachers.
“Right now, I just need one but it’s at my smallest school which poses a bigger challenge because it’s a combination class,” said Melina Ficek, Principal of Albion Elementary.
With multiple openings for teachers still not filled, it can be stressful for school administrators in Cassia County.
“Do you hire someone who is ill-qualified for the position, and kids suffer, or do you wait it out, which has its own negatives as well? It’s a tough choice,” said Kevin Lloyd, Principal of Declo Elementary.
School district superintendent Sandra Miller said at the height of the hiring frenzy they had about 50 to 60 teaching positions that needed to be filled, but sometimes it can be tough to recruit and retain teachers in a rural community.
“Then you have smaller schools, and communities like mine, where you have an opening but what draws the teacher there? When they can enjoy any state or any place,” Lloyd said.
To address the issue, the school district, like many other schools, is hiring teachers who have a bachelor’s degree but not teaching credentials and working with them to get certified as a teacher.
“I know CSI has a program that is really good. There ABCTE (American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence),” Ficek said.
Miller said Idaho teachers start at around $40,000 a year, and right now her district has limited options right now for signing bonuses and tuition reimbursement for new teachers seeking to get their teaching credentials. Things they were able to offer in the past. However, the school district does offer a mentoring program for new teachers, so they can better transition into the classroom.
“The first year when they come to us we give them courses in classroom management. That is a really big component of success in the classroom. In the second year they take instructional strategies and best practices,” said Cassia County Schools Communications Officer Jennifer Woodbury.
However, Ficek said they are working with parents to let them know their children are receiving a quality education, despite some of the teachers’ credentials. She said she often lets parents be part of the interview process for a new teacher who lacks the necessary credentials and drops in on classrooms.
“As a principal, if I had a new teacher without a teaching certificate, I would make sure to be in that classroom more than other classrooms,” Ficek said
Until the open positions are filled, the school district is looking at options like long-term substitutes, or possibly merging smaller classrooms together. However, the district has been successful in getting the majority of the positions filled. Ficek credits it to Cassia County’s strong and supportive community.
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