Spring break is still more than a month away for some school systems, but the search is already on for teachers for the 2017-18 school year.
Each year, school districts face the task of filling vacancies, and many of them rely on recruitment fairs to find potential candidates. Fort Valley State University is hosting an expo Friday, and Bibb County schools has one on Saturday.
Some of the open positions come from retiring teachers, but the majority of the vacancies can be attributed to people leaving the profession, according to a report from the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.
In Georgia, 70 percent of teacher hiring is done to replace employees who’ve quit teaching. Forty-four percent of the new hires in 2010 weren’t teaching five years later.
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“Meeting the needs of every student is difficult,” Houston County Deputy Superintendent Cindy Flesher said. Houston County’s job fair is March 11. “Sometimes (teaching) is not for everybody. But really, the positives far outweigh the negatives.”
Bibb kept 73 percent of its teachers from July 2015 to 2016, said Paige Busbee, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources. The system usually ends up hiring between 200 and 250 new instructors before the beginning of each school year.
Houston generally fills about 200 certified positions yearly, but it has a higher retention rate, staying between 91 and 96 percent over the past five years, Flesher said.
“Teaching is hard. It’s not a 9-to-5 job. It requires long hours,” Busbee said. “I think the state puts a lot of pressure on teachers as far as accountability with testing. This emphasis on testing has turned some people off.”
Teachers can’t count on students to do their best on exams, and test scores don’t show the whole picture when it comes to student growth, Flesher said.
The teacher pool is getting shallow, Busbee said. The number of college education majors in the state dropped about 36 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to the Georgia Partnership report. That was evident during a recent teacher recruitment fair that Houston representatives attended, where only 18 potential candidates visited the district’s booth rather than the typical 30 or 40 during past years, Flesher said.
“We’ve been knowing and expecting that a teacher shortage is coming, but it’s becoming even more real right now,” she said.
That shortage has caused the state to waive class-size limits for the past several years, meaning more students in every class and sometimes less qualified teachers stepping in, Busbee said. Last year, about 2,500 teaching positions went unfilled in Georgia.
“We’re having a hard time recruiting kids to come into education in college,” she said. “We’ve got to make it attractive for young people to go into the teaching field. We’ve got to think about how we present our profession. We’ve got to get them to see the intrinsic reward.”
Districts need competitive pay, benefits and retirement packages to draw employees in, she said. Teachers in some districts, including Bibb and Houston, received 3-percent pay raises last year, and Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed 2-percent pay increases for the upcoming school year.
The school system is the second largest employer in Macon-Bibb County, and teaching candidates need to know what the city itself has to offer too, said Mallori Gattis, the district’s human resources coordinator
“If we don’t work with the community to provide nightlife and affordable housing, it’s going to be hard to capture this millennial generation. We have to sell our community,” she said.
Teachers just starting their careers, especially right out of college, need extra support to ensure they stay in the classroom, Busbee said.
At the beginning of the year, new hires in Bibb attend a four-day orientation and Houston a two-day orientation to learn about school mission, classroom management, support services, teaching and learning expectations, and system initiatives, Busbee and Flesher said.
New Bibb teachers are mentored for their first three years, and content and academic coaches provide guidance. Veteran teachers are paired with new teachers when configuring grade levels and teaching teams.
In Houston, teachers are paid stipends to mentor new instructors. In addition, new hires must go to five after-school sessions throughout the year.
“We need 100 percent retention,” Busbee said. “It’s critical as a state that we get this right.”
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.
Teacher recruitment fairs
FORT VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
When: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday
Where: C.W. Pettigrew Center, 1005 State University Drive, Fort Valley
Districts: Area school systems will be represented.
When: 9 a.m.-noon Saturday
Where: Howard High School, 6400 Forsyth Road, Macon
Schools: All Bibb County schools will be represented.
HEART OF GEORGIA REGIONAL EDUCATIONAL SERVICE AGENCY
When: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 25
Where: Dublin High School, 1127 Hillcrest Parkway, Dublin
Districs: Bleckley, Dodge, Dublin, Laurens, Montgomery, Pulaski, Telfair, Treutlen, Wheeler and Wilcox school systems will be represented.
When: 9 a.m.-noon March 11
Districts: Veterans High School, 340 Piney Grove Road, Kathleen
Schools: All Houston County schools will be represented.
MIDDLE GEORGIA REGIONAL EDUCATIONAL SERVICE AGENCY
Where: 9 a.m.-noon March 18
Where: Sutton Elementary School, 1315 Ga. 83, Forsyth
Districts: Crawford, Jasper, Jones, Monroe, Peach and Twiggs county school districts will be represented.