Local News

Wake Short Dozens of Teachers as School Approaches

Posted August 13, 2007 1:24 p.m. EDT
Updated August 13, 2007 6:52 p.m. EDT

— The Wake County school system has 76 teaching vacancies with two weeks until traditional-calendar schools start classes, officials said Monday.

Principals were conservative in hiring because of the confusion about the lawsuit over year-round schools, district administrators said.

Wake County converted 22 traditional schools to year-round calendars this year to create room an an estimated 8,000 new students. But a group of parents sued, and the district was required to obtain consent from thousands of families assigned to year-round schools to comply with a judge's ruling in the case.

Year-round and modified-calendar schools, which started classes last month, have filled all of their teaching vacancies, district administrators said.

"To date, we have hired over 900 teachers, (with) 59 percent of them from out of state – from New York, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania," Assistant Superintendent Maurice Boswell said.

Many new teachers were in orientation Monday, and the district already has job fairs scheduled to recruit teachers for next year.

Other states produce more teachers than there are vacancies, Boswell said, adding that North Carolina needs to expand teacher education programs to keep up with demand.

"We know that North Carolina colleges and universities are not producing enough teachers to go around, so we are looking for creating ways to grow our own," he said.

Aside from national recruiting, the district is using millions of dollars in grants to recruit teachers who don't have degrees in education and then helping them get their teaching certificates.

The district's ultimate goal is to keep the teachers in Wake County. The local turnover rate among teachers is 10 percent, compared to the statewide rate of 12 percent of teachers who retire or leave the classroom each year.

"The first year for teachers is critical," Boswell said, noting that Wake County splits its new hire bonus – $500 for the first semester and $500 for the second semester – to encourage teachers to stick with it.

Most of the vacant teaching positions are in high school math, science and special needs, he said.

Surprisingly, Wake County hasn't had much trouble recruiting English as a Second Language, or ESL, teachers, who are usually hard to find. The district has filled all of its 141 ESL slots, Boswell said.

Those teachers work with many of the 13,000 Hispanic students in area schools. A year ago, the district had about 11,000 Hispanic students.