Nationwide, public schools have struggled to retain and hire new teachers, creating a staff shortage.
The National Center for Education Statistics reported in March that 44% of public schools were seeing higher than normal vacancies for full or part-time teachers, with 61% of school districts attributing the staffing shortage to the pandemic.
The US Department of Education reported that public schools in Connecticut have the hardest time finding world language teachers as well as specialists and psychologists.
“Where we struggle are areas where there are few certified teachers for that specific content area,” said Cheshire school superintendent Jeffrey Solan. “So, for example, if we’re trying to hire someone for a Latin opening, the numbers just aren’t there for that.”
Solan said the district is filling positions such as elementary school teachers where there are more qualified applicants.
For more specialized positions, the district uses a list from the state Department of Education of all individuals who hold certification for the position they are seeking to fill.
“It’s being filtered out by people who aren’t currently working in that certification area,” Solan said.
Along with that, Solan said they reach out to colleges and universities in the area that specialize in teaching the field of study they are looking for.
Meriden and Southington school districts also maintain relationships with local colleges and universities that help fill vacancies quickly.
“We have many partnerships with local universities that place student teachers and interns in our buildings, which gives us quick access to potential candidates, especially in shortage areas,” said Steven Madancy, superintendent. of Southington.
While Meriden Administrator Louis Bronk said his district hasn’t had many problems hiring, he’s noticed the trend of Connecticut teachers leaving the state to teach or leaving the profession.
“While we haven’t seen a large number of these types of incidents in Meriden, some of my colleagues across the state have shared that these types of incidents are quite common over the past year,” said Bronk, deputy superintendent of personnel and talent. development.
Gun violence and COVID-19 are two issues that “can keep you up at night,” Solan said.
Wallingford Superintendent Danielle Bellizzi said while her district has been successful in hiring “well-qualified and committed teachers,” she has noticed teacher shortages over the past three years, exacerbated by COVID-19.
“The past three years have been extraordinarily challenging for educators around the world, as well as for students and their families,” Bellizzi said. “As with so many other professions, these challenges have caused a shortage of teachers from the college and university systems.
To support teachers, Solan said Cheshire is providing training on mental health, threats and violence.
“These little things don’t erase the anxiety, but they do help alleviate it to some extent,” Solan said.
At Meriden, Bronk said they are holding discussions on these topics to help brainstorm ideas to support staff.
“Having open and honest discussions about where staff and students stand on these topics and responding to needs as they arise is extremely important,” Bronk said. “Our goal as a district has been to foster a culture in every school that supports and understands the needs of all stakeholders, including our staff.”
A teacher’s salary is also a reason for the teacher shortage, Madancy said.
“In some parts of the country, I’m not sure teachers’ salaries are commensurate with the cost of living and the demands of the job, (which) has become much more complex and multifaceted than 10 years ago,” said declared Madancy. “Additionally, I think young professionals are considering how much student debt they might incur for bachelor’s and master’s degrees, which is required in Connecticut within a certain period of time after getting a job, being a lot higher than the salary of a beginning teacher.”
Years ago, even though teachers knew the profession would allow them to make a “modest living,” Madancy said teachers entered the profession because “they wanted to pursue careers they found rewarding. and encouraging.
“Public education has come under so much scrutiny and attack from political and special interest groups in the past two years that some feel the work is too stressful, thankless and less than rewarding” , said Madancy. “The days when it was a vocation are over.”
Although there are challenges, Solan said being a teacher is a way to help children solve problems and grow into good people.
“We need as many people as possible in the world right now,” he said. “So it’s really a privilege to work on the ground and to have this opportunity to shape our world in a more positive way.”
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