Districts Compete For Short Supply Of Special Ed, Minority Teachers

May 26, 1991|By Greg Tasker

Like other school districts in Maryland and across the nation, Carroll needs special education teachers.

"It's the No. 1 scarcity in the country," said William R. Rooney, Carroll's director of personnel."Colleges are simply not producing enough graduates to meet the need."

Carroll's needs, as outlined in the school board's proposed $110 million budget for the next school year, includes staff to fill about15 special education positions, ranging from speech therapists for two new elementary schools to learning-problems teachers.

"Special education is and has been for the last five years the top demand area, regardless of what part of the country you're looking at," said Charles A. Marshall, executive director of the Association for School, College and University Staffing Placement.

The demand has been prompted by federal efforts to integrate special education students with others in the classroom (rather than isolating them in separate special education classes) and by research that continues to provide insight into the learning process, Marshall said.

"As we understand thelearning process more and more, we find that learning needs are different, and you have to have support services," he said.

While special education teachers are on Carroll's priority list, the district also actively recruits minority candidates.

There are occasional vacancies in academic areas, such as math and the higher sciences, but Rooney said Carroll has not had any trouble filling those positions because the turnover rate among those teachers is low.

The need forspecial education and minority teachers, however, remains constant.

To find special education teachers, Carroll and other Maryland schools travel to Pennsylvania colleges like Kutztown, Edinboro, Clarionand Slippery Rock universities -- all known for their special education programs.

"We interviewed a few folks at Kutztown and have gotten a few applications since then," said Harry T. Fogle, assistant supervisor of special education and one of two recruiters sent to a jobfair there. "We've been actively interviewing people for positions the past couple of weeks."

Teaching special education is a demanding job, and the burnout rate is high, Fogle said. He said the districtis looking for candidates who are "up to date" with the best practices in teaching.

Those practices include the collaborative teachingmethod, in which special education teachers work with regular teachers to meet student needs within the mainstream environment, Fogle said.

"It gives the special education student the opportunity to growcognitively as well as socially with his or her peer groups," he said. "We're looking for people with those kinds of skills."

The district also is looking for candidates who are familiar with the multisensory teaching approach, in which teachers present materials that engage all of the senses.

"Special education has become very demanding," Fogle said. "It takes a wide range of skills. Good special education teachers are at a premium throughout the nation. It is not an easy task to find top-notch teachers."

Fogle said that if the district finds an excellent candidate and has an opening, educators try to get that candidate on board "as soon as we can," knowing neighboring districts are looking for special education teachers, too.

Carroll recruiters, however, don't offer special incentives or immediately offer contracts to get high-quality candidates to commit themselves to the district. Instead, they make sure Rooney and the subject supervisor know about a particular candidate so they can contact that person as soon as possible.

In meeting special education needs, Carroll has an advantage over some school districts: Western Maryland College's graduate program in special education. Many teachers hired by the district enroll at WMC to earn a master's degree in special education.

"They then have the background on how a normal child functions and how a disabled or atypical child functions," Fogle said. "They can put the two together and develop an appropriate program."

Minoritystudents comprise about 3 percent of Carroll's 21,000 students. Minority teachers -- 25 blacks and 6 others, such as Hispanics and Asians-- make up 2.2 percent of the district's professional staff of 1,406teachers and administrators. The county's minority population is below 5 percent.

"Minority students need role models," Rooney said. "Our goal is to provide them with role models."

To find minority teachers, Carroll and other Maryland recruiters travel to predominantlyblack colleges, such as North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C.; the University of the District of Columbia in Washington, and Delaware State College in Dover, Del.

Just how difficult is it to recruit minority teachers?

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