07/24/07 — Hiring teachers on track

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Hiring teachers on track

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 24, 2007 1:45 PM

With one month remaining until school starts, officials say they are on track filling teaching staff vacancies.

Some retirees are opting to return to the classroom, and new recruits are responding to openings in the education field, said Marvin McCoy, assistant superintendent for human resources services.

"We keep a tally of where the vacancies are and if the principals cannot find new teachers, the retirees will be hired pending approval of the legislature," he said. Some are subject to a salary cap and working in temporary capacities, he explained.

In some cases, retirees will return for a semester until they reach their cap, while others might work at reduced benefits for the course of the year.

Vacancies vary as the student population increases, McCoy said. New positions for instructional assistants are prevalent, but many highly qualified candidates are being drawn to the openings.

"It's the specialty areas with the exceptional children, with high school and middle school math," McCoy said. "Those are the challenging areas ... because there are just not a lot of people there."

Principals are responsible for reviewing resumes and hiring their staffs, McCoy said. So far, the process seems to be running smoothly, he added.

"But if all the baby boomers were to retire today -- and they can -- the state of North Carolina would be in a fix and Wayne County would be, too."

The good news is the school system is able to continue to glean from its own resource pool at present.

"Fortunately, we have those teachers who are staying on beyond the 30 years, and they have value. They have worth," he said. "(Retirees) are plugging the gaps."

Part of the teacher shortage problem stems from a drop in college graduates entering the field, McCoy said.

"The schools of education are not producing enough teachers, so we are having to rely on the lateral entry process," he said, referring to the state's program that allows candidates with bachelor's degrees to work in the classroom while earning additional credentials.

"We have found wonderful candidates coming, with a degree. They just have to take the Praxis test."

Programs such as More at Four and early childhood education, offered through colleges, have also increased the number entering the profession. Likewise, military transfers to Wayne County have also proved beneficial.

"Spouses of soldiers coming in, they're coming in teacher-ready," McCoy said.

It is McCoy's job to recruit and steer potential educators toward the vocation. During his many recruiting trips and attendance at job fairs, he takes advantage of the opportunity to promote teaching.

"If they have a relative degree and cannot find a job, I will ask them to consider this as an option. ... Do some substitute teaching, see if you like it," he said.

Even during a recent substitute teaching orientation training, McCoy said he encountered many with two- and four-year degrees.

"We were able to encourage them to consider teaching (full-time)," he said.

The need for instructional assistants is also growing. With public school teachers in Wayne County in excess of 1,277, McCoy said the number of aides is topping 500.

"Because of new allotments, we're talking nearly 550 instructional assistants. In the exceptional children's program, the number of students determines whether you have an assistant in the classroom and then our K-3 actually dictates whether we have instructional assistants at that level," he explained.

Demonstrating the important role educators play in the life of a child can be an enticement to those unfamiliar with the field, McCoy said.

"The last teacher workday, June 11, we conducted a teacher assistant summit and had all the classified staff in Wayne County in one location," he said. "We showed them what's available to them.

"The truth is, when children see them in a store, they don't say, 'That's my teacher assistant.' They say, 'Mom, that's my teacher.'"

According to the school system's Web site, which offers a link to the staffing vacancies at each school, several are at capacity. That list is updated periodically to reflect ongoing changes.

McCoy suggested anyone interested in pursuing a job in the district visit the Web site, www.waynecountyschools.org.

And while it currently shows no openings in the transportation department, he said that does not apply to bus drivers.

"There's a tremendous need," he said, urging possible candidates to contact individual schools for an application.