Districts Step Up Recruitment To Fill Critical Teaching Posts
This weekend the San Antonio Independent School District held a job fair aimed at filling critical teaching positions for the fall. Across Texas districts are reporting a shortage of teachers in specific subject areas.
At the Young Women's Leadership Academy, Christian Aguilera is teaching algebra word problems about rate and velocity to her seventh grade math class. Aguilera is a sought-after commodity for Texas Public Schools. She teaches a critical subject with too few certified instructors.
Toni Thompson is the Associate Superintendent for Human Resources in San Antonio Independent School District. She says finding qualified teachers for a number of subjects is difficult because the teachers can earn more money in private industry.
"Math and science majors can be engineers," Thompson says. "They can pursue other areas that tap into those backgrounds—medical field, research. So there’s just a lot more opportunities that are a lot more lucrative with respect to compensation."
Rachael Guillen teachers another subject where the demand outstrips available applicants- AP science. Guillen is a new teacher at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy. She had seven interviews in just three months and had four job offers. Guillen can probably pick where she wants to teach and because of the shortage in her field, she feels a sense of job security.
"At the moment, it’s a good feeling as a teacher, because I know they’ll be a job for me at some point. But I know it’s going to cause the local universities to ramp up production and put out a whole bunch of new teachers, which might in the long run make it more difficult for teachers to find work," Guillen said.
Thompson from Human Resources says universities are just not graduating enough teachers. She’s aware that the smaller pool of sought after teachers has options. So her team aggressively recruits a year in advance. She says SAISD offers competitive pay and attractive benefit packages. And the district searches for candidates in other states that offer lower pay than SAISD.
"This year we’re going to make a swing through some Louisiana universities," Thompson says. "We’re going to recruit in Oklahoma. Oklahoma doesn’t pay nearly as well as we do in Texas, so that makes it a little easier to not only get them, but to keep them. We’re going back to Iowa and Indiana. In the past we’re been real successful recruiting in the Midwest.
Thompson says the new normal is to fill at least 400 vacancies at the beginning of each school year. Because of aggressive recruiting they’ve had zero vacancies at the start of the school year for the past four years. Michelle Grajeda is one of the teachers SAISD recruited last year. She teaches English, and could find a job outside education. But Grajeda says those options have never been as appealing.
"I was one of those fortunate people who as a sophomore in high school that I wanted to be a teacher," Grajeda says. "I can’t imagine being in another profession. It’s part of my identity. It’s part of who I am."
Thompson says 10 to 13 percent of teachers in SAISD leave the district or the profession each year, which is just below the state average. Grajeda and Guillen say the mission of the Young Women’s Leadership Academy is among the reasons they stay. The Academy is San Antonio’s first all-girls public school, a college-preparatory school that focuses on math, science and technology. Young girls compete to be enrolled here.
"What I love is the fact that all of the students want to be here," Guillen says. "They want to be educated; they’re motivated to learn, and they all have very significant goals. So in every class that I teach, my students are willing to listen, they want to participate, they really want to understand how what I know can help them in their futures."
"I have a vision for girls, to empower girls, with confidence, with education, with their own voice—helping them to find their own voice," Grajeda says.
Several legislative committees are studying long-term measures to combat the teacher shortage. Meanwhile SAISD is looking at next fall, hoping aggressive recruitment, competitive benefits and testimonials like those from teachers at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy will draw enough qualified applicants.