Drolma Geyer decided she wanted to become a teacher as an elementary student in Longmont, newly arrived in the United States from Tibet.
Now, in her fifth year of teaching, she has been hired by St. Vrain Valley to teach fourth grade at Longmont’s Timberline PK-8 – where her former fourth-grade teacher and role model Kerin McClure is the principal.
“As an English student myself, I knew I wanted to have that positive impact on someone else,” she said. “With Ms. McClure here at Timberline, it was a huge opportunity for me. I’m really excited. I work with my role model, which has had a huge impact on my educational journey.
With the start of school less than a week away, leaders in Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley say they are almost fully staffed with teachers. But filling all open school support staff positions, from bus drivers to teacher aides to food service workers, continues to be a challenge.
St. Vrain Valley hired about 270 new teachers this school year, filling positions created by a combination of attrition and enrollment growth. District leaders said the district typically hires about 200 new teachers a year.
Superintendent Don Haddad said at this week’s school board meeting that the district has about 400 to 500 students based on preliminary enrollment counts, with more accurate numbers expected after school resumes.
“That growth faucet has been turned back on,” he said.
All but a small number of open teaching positions in the district have been filled, based on the district’s job board. Those still open include a few part-time teaching positions, as well as several special education positions.
In addition to the new teachers, the district has hired seven new principals, with a mix of those from inside and outside the district. New Principals are starting at Erie High, Erie Middle, Lyons Middle/Senior, Burlington Elementary, Grandview Elementary, Main Street School, and LaunchED Virtual Academy.
The Saint-Vrain Valley job site has about 200 vacancies, mostly for hourly workers and sports or activity coaches. The openings include 45 paraeducator positions, 23 guards and 17 daycare and preschool positions.
The Boulder Valley School District, which is experiencing declining enrollment, has hired about 130 new teachers, along with 12 new principals, for the upcoming school year.
New principals start at Boulder High, Fairview High, Monarch High (acting), New Vista High, Nederland Middle Senior, Aspen Creek K-8, Casey Middle, Centennial Middle, Manhattan Middle, Coal Creek Elementary (acting), Foothill Elementary and Upper primary.
District job listings show 141 open positions, including 19 for teachers.
James Hill, Boulder Valley assistant superintendent of human resources, said the district continues to fill vacancies and is in a good position with hiring teachers.
Shortages also continue for support positions, including tutors, janitors, bus drivers and food service workers. The district, for example, is still looking for around 20 bus drivers.
“It’s a tricky time for some positions,” Hill said. “All neighboring school districts are in the same situation, where you hire from the same small pool.”
As several districts in the Denver metro area raise wages to better compete with the private sector, Boulder Valley and its classified employees remain at an impasse in wage negotiations. The Boulder Valley Classified Employees Association represents bus drivers, food service workers, custodians and other hourly employees.
The employees’ association says the 3.5% cost-of-living increase given to all employees is not enough to ensure that hourly employees earn a living wage. The two sides also disagree on whether the district is paying within the 75th percentile range for each position’s salaries, as determined by the district through a consultant based on peer school districts.
Mediation with a third party is scheduled for September 19 and 20. If mediation fails, the process would move to “finding of facts,” a process in which a third-party arbitrator hears evidence from both parties and renders a non-binding judgment. .
In the meantime, Boulder Valley bus driver Michael Guidarelli has asked district leaders to visit transportation terminals to walk through routes and talk to mechanics and other workers to learn more about the challenges of the jobs.
“The perception of the transportation department towards the district is one of distrust, that the district does not support us and look at us with the same respect or consideration as teachers or other staff members,” he said. he said at this week’s school board meeting. .
For new teachers, both school districts recently offered orientation programs.
In the Saint-Vrain Valley, the three-day orientation session included a mix of in-person and virtual professional development. Diane Lauer, assistant superintendent of priority programs, said about 25% of new hires are in their first year of teaching. Of the others, most have between three and ten years of teaching experience.
The orientation program began with teachers from their home schools getting to know their buildings and watching an introductory video to the district. The afternoon was spent at Longmont High for a session on creating a sense of belonging and community.
Day two was a mix of virtual and in-person meetings about the content they will be teaching, as well as time to set up classrooms. The final day was primarily online, with teachers choosing sessions based on their needs and interests.
“It was a great way for teachers to get what they needed,” Lauer said. “It’s really important because a lot of the teachers we hire come to us with a certain level of experience. We really want to value that.
In Boulder Valley, new leaders and new teachers attended orientation sessions.
For teachers, the five-day session included a mix of in-person and virtual learning, as well as time to set up classrooms. A highlight, said Boulder Valley Director of Professional Learning Katie Mills, was hearing from students from the district’s Youth Equity Council about ways to create a welcoming environment for all students.
Teachers were also placed in small groups based on grade level or content, which gave them the opportunity to network, she said.
“It’s so important for them to feel welcomed and part of the community,” she says.