December 5, 2021

Recruiting, retaining teachers proves difficult

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Newly hired technology and business teacher Steven Stechyshyn teaches Homer eighth-graders Madison Burlingame, center, and Harlie St. John a section in hydroponics Tuesday.

Homer Central School District finally hired a technology teacher this year, after advertising for the job three times, due to a state change that gave schools more flexibility in hiring for that position, said district Superintendent Nancy Ruscio.

It’s a common problem for school districts, with teacher shortages in certain fields.

“We advertised three times, from spring to summer, and it wasn’t until the Board of Regents changed the CTE (career technical education) program requirements at the middle school level that we were able to hire a business teacher for a technology position,” Ruscio said.

The change, brought about because of a shortage of family and consumer science and technology education teachers across the state, allowed for the career technical education requirement to be met in “new and innovative ways,” according to the state Education Department.

In addition to technology and family and consumer science, other subjects that are difficult to hire for include health, business and special education.

There simply aren’t a large number of college programs churning out students in these fields, agree educators, and that results in a teacher shortage.

However, the Homer School District filled six special education positions this summer, vacancies that came about because of retirements.

It can be hit or miss, Ruscio said. This year, she hired a high school math teacher, but other years it was a challenge.

Cincinnatus Schools Superintendent Steve Hubbard said next year the district will take advantage of the state Education Department’s new regulations as they pertain to Family and Consumer Sciences.

The district has not yet decided how it will proceed next year, but this year it is finishing out the year with a substitute, as the previous teacher who was shared with another district left for a full-time job with a single district.

Family and Consumer Sciences is the single hardest area to hire for, in addition to special education, English as a second language and high school mathematics teachers, Hubbard said. He said people with mathematics expertise often opt for higher paying private sector jobs, rather than public school teaching.

Teachers entering the profession in a rural district like Cincinnatus won’t make the salary they would make elsewhere, Hubbard said. But there are other perks.

“When you work here and it’s a place you want to be, we’re going to support you in helping you to be a lifelong learner in your profession and also in how can we help children learn as much as they can,” Hubbard said.

The school offers monthly mentoring to new teachers, and supports teachers in attending educational seminars and other continuing education opportunities, he said.