School districts across the country — including in Montgomery County — are facing significant staffing shortages due to the pandemic that has led many teachers to leave the profession. Complaints of burnout, low pay and lack of respect from students, parents and lawmakers have also impacted the number of teachers and support staff available.
Despite the openings, the school system is 98% staffed and progress has been made in reducing vacancies, McKnight said. As of July 20, 396 teaching positions were open, compared to 157 open Monday morning. The superintendent attributed the improvement to the school system’s multiple recruitment efforts, including several in-person job fairs and partnerships with community organizations.
The school system is also looking to hire 367 support staff – including paraprofessional educators and front desk workers – and 16 bus drivers.
DC-area schools see spike in teacher quits
“As we continue to settle, even into the first day of school, the process will continue,” McKnight said. “The numbers will change. She said the system will continue to fill vacancies with substitute teachers, including several retirees, until the positions are permanently filled.
As the school system works on hiring, McKnight said he plans to maintain his current class sizes in the next school year, which begins Aug. 29. Maximum class sizes vary by grade level and program. Secondary schools, for example, generally have a maximum class size of 32 students.
The number of teachers who quit at the end of the most recent school year, 576, was actually lower than the previous year when 610 left, according to data provided by the school system in June. The number of teachers who left their jobs in the most recent year is equivalent to about 4% of the workforce.
However, retirements have increased in Montgomery County this year, leading to more staffing shortages, said Jennifer Martin, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, a union that represents more than 14,000 teachers. Martin has regularly spoken at county school board meetings over the past school year, warning of increases in the retirements and resignations of teachers and support staff.
Montgomery teachers’ union concerned about timing of teacher transfers
Martin was invited to the press conference on Monday, but did not attend. Two trade union leaders representing administrators and support staff were present.
Martin said he felt it was inappropriate to attend as many of the union’s calls for workload relief and initiatives to address staff burnout went unheeded, he said. she said in an interview on Monday. The union published his own statement after the press conference, writing that staff members continue to experience a “continued disrespect” that affects teacher retention. The union criticized a decision by the system in July to involuntarily transfer a handful of teachers to different schools about a month before the start of the school year.
“I wholeheartedly agree with my sister presidents and unions who were here today, and with Dr. McKnight, who want to make sure MCPS is a wonderful place to work,” Martin said in an interview. “But at this time, we disagree with MCPS on what teachers need to make that happen.”