Local News

Back To School Blues: Local School Systems Struggling To Find Teachers

Posted July 29, 2003

— With the start of the school year two weeks away, local school systems are scrambling to find teachers. In Johnston County, 70 teachers are needed and time is running out.

McGee's Crossroads Middle School is one of two new Johnston County schools opening this year. It is also in one of the county's fastest-growing school districts.

Johnston County cannot hire teachers fast enough. Heather Earp is one of 85 first-year teachers attending an orientation.

"Being in demand is nice, because I can kind of shop around, get what I want," she said.

Johnston County teachers are supposed to report to school in two days. The district is doing all it can to meet that deadline, including taking out ads in newspapers across the country.

Time is not the only factor.

"We're not going to let the crunch for time force us into hiring somebody we don't think will make a good teacher," said Robin Little of Johnston County Schools.

Little said specialized teachers are toughest to find. Earp is one of just five spring graduates from East Carolina University qualified to teach high-school science.

"Special education, math, science, foreign language -- those are our biggest areas," Little said.

At the new-teacher orientation, several recruits are starting a second career. Second-career teachers are only qualified to teach courses that match their degree and must have had at least a 2.5 GPA in college.

"If you have those two things, then we would consider you for lateral entry," Little said.

Johnston County hopes to lure licensed teachers to the district by offering signing bonuses. High-demand teachers like Earp will get even more money.

"If you're in teaching, you're not in it for the money. You really want to do it," she said.

The problem is that fewer people want to teach. Johnston County school administrators are confident they will find enough teachers to fill classrooms before school starts, but they are also prepared to hire more substitutes and increase class sizes until they do.

Wake County is in the process of hiring 1,000 teachers; 80 more are needed. Durham has 20 teacher openings and Cumberland County needs 45 teachers.

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