After starting the school year with more than 50 teaching vacancies, the Santa Rosa County School District is looking to make a jump in teacher recruitment for next year and is set to host a teacher fair on Saturday. job for teachers to connect future educators with the district. officials.
“I think everyone saw, I guess, what’s called the ‘big quit,'” district human resources manager BJ Price said. “People are looking at their financial situation and looking at their work situation, and they’re finding ways to say, ‘Hey, I think it’s time for me, and I’m going to go ahead and get out.'”
The event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the new East Bay K-8 school in Navarre. Those who already have – or are ready to obtain – a teaching certification are welcome, including those interested in positions in information technology, food service, transportation and janitorial work. Those wishing to attend must pre-register at eventbrite.com.
According to Price, this is the district’s third teacher career fair. The previous two were in 2017 and 2018. He added that in part, due to county growth, the district plans to add about 100 new positions for the next school year.
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“So we started the year off to a rock bottom. We had heard from our principals that they were having trouble finding people to fill the classrooms and fill the positions,” Price said.
Price added that an event like this, where people meet in person, provides an extra layer of human interest.
“I think there’s some value in having a principal or administrator sitting on the other side of the table or having a conversation with the person who’s going to walk into those classrooms and work with the students. “Price said.
Speaking about the teacher retention and attraction process, Price said the coronavirus pandemic has given people an opportunity to re-evaluate their career choices.
“I think it would be naïve to say that COVID, and all of that, hasn’t had an impact on people wanting to go to class. But at the same time, we still have people coming through our doors every the days that want to be teachers,” Price said.
Since recruiting for school positions always takes place in early summer, Price said he thinks the job fair will help position the district ahead of the curve.
Over the past year, the district has also struggled to recruit substitute teachers to fill the gaps. The News Journal previously reported that the district lost nearly half of its substitute teachers by the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources Liz West previously told the News Journal that the district was considering financial incentives such as bonuses for replacements who work a certain amount of time over a 10-day period and referral bonuses to help attract and retain replacements.
In addition to financial incentives, other “intrinsic” incentives were part of the substitutes discussion, such as having a substitute of the month, creating special parking spots for substitutes, and instituting a thank you breakfast and lunch at the end of the school year.
Last school year, the district combated staffing shortages by assigning district staff, special assignment teachers – such as media specialists – and other office workers to intervene in schools when the rate of fill was low.
“Like probably everyone around the world right now, we’re seeing a labor shortage. Obviously we have that in education as well,” Price said. “And so, we really felt that we had to seize an opportunity and be as proactive as possible for our schools and our students, and try to make sure that we have great teachers in our classrooms for next year. “