Originally Published: July 15, 2016 6:01 a.m.
Humboldt Unified School District is having difficulty filling multiple open teaching positions and while there has been some progress, there are still a few openings left, Superintendent Dan Streeter said. A visit to the job listings page of the district’s website shows that there are more than 15 open positions for some type of teacher.
It’s not uncommon to have open positions during the summer, but what is being seen now that is uncommon is that there are fewer candidates coming forward, Streeter said.
“That’s really indicative of the teaching shortage around the state that’s now reaching a critical point,” he said.
One position opened recently with the departure of Bradshaw Mountain High School band director Chris Tenney, who accepted a position at Yavapai College as an associate professor of instrumental music.
Tenney was at the high school for five years and it was his second school district, having taught for a different district for two years prior to that. Being a college professor was a goal and dream ever since he started teaching, Tenney said.
The number of open positions in the Humboldt district is more than the 10 unfilled positions it has last year, Streeter said. When positions go unfilled, the secondary level is easier to manage, he said.
“Those teachers will go on overload contracts. They’ll teach through their prep hour, they get extra compensation … the challenge is it creates a high level of stress when you use that prep time and you increase your caseload,” Streeter said. “Think about as an English teacher, a regular load is five classes, that’s 150 students, 150 essays, you take on an overload contract, you just added 30 essays you’re taking home on the weekend to grade.”
At the elementary level, it’s much more challenging but there are instructional specialist and Title I teachers that can step in where there are holes, Streeter said.
No matter what though, the district is adamant to not settle on a candidate, Streeter said, noting that there has always been the mindset to be stubborn when hiring teachers because students deserve the best and teachers deserve the best colleagues who are able to perform at the level the current teachers are at. Though while compromise is out of the picture, attracting people can get creative, he said.
“Out-of-state recruiting, we’re looking at some grow your own programs, find people anchored in the community and get them on a fast track certification process, there’s some intern certificate programs where we can pay for people to go through the courses to become certified and get them into schools,” Streeter said. “Really, being rural Arizona, we’ve had to look at more creative ways to get candidates.”
It’s not just this area that’s feeling the teaching shortage either as there are about 1,000 open teaching positions in the state of Arizona, Streeter said. Districts from all around the state are competing for the same few candidates, he said. What’s more is that the annual mean wage for teaching professionals changes throughout the regions of Arizona with those in the Phoenix area making an average of $45,990 per year and those in the Prescott area making an average of $40,870 per year, according to www.teachingdegree.org.