Job fair scores an A on recruiting effort

Applicants: While the state faces the prospect of a teacher shortage in the next few years, Baltimore County attracted hundreds of would-be teachers to its exhibition.

April 15, 1999|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

If Maryland is facing a shortage of teachers, Towson University senior Erin Gardner couldn't see it yesterday as she looked at the hundreds of potential teachers at the Baltimore County Public Schools Exposition and Job Fair.

"Every principal here is going to meet so many people, so I'm worried if they're going to remember me," said Gardner, 21, who was armed with five dozen resumes in her search for an elementary school teaching position.

Yet, as Maryland faces the prospect of an overwhelming teacher shortage in the next few years, Baltimore County and other school systems are turning to more and more job fairs, out-of-state recruiting and other measures to attract enough applicants.

"Fortunately, we don't see the shortage yet, but we know it's coming," said county schools Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione as he surveyed the Exhibition Hall at the state fairgrounds in Timonium yesterday. "We've discussed things like bonuses, but we want to wait because so far we seem to have enough applicants to meet our needs."

Maryland public schools hired about 5,600 teachers last year, and officials project needing 11,000 new teachers per year by September 2001. The growing demand is because of increasing student enrollment, the anticipated retirement of baby boomer-generation teachers and efforts to reduce class sizes for beginning reading classes.

But the state's colleges and universities graduate only 2,500 new teachers a year and that number is not expected to increase -- forcing school systems to become increasingly creative.

Last week, the Howard County school board approved $1,000 bonuses for new teachers certified in special education, math, science, reading, physical and occupational therapy, technology education and English as a second language.

In Baltimore, the Abell Foundation has joined with a local developer to provide low-cost housing for beginning city teachers, and the city school board is considering an 11-month contract to pay teachers more money. Yesterday, three companies announced they will provide scholarships for students interested in teaching in city schools.

School systems also are increasing salaries to attract teachers and recruiting more at out-of-state colleges.

"Everyone is offering incentives, which has made the competition really fierce," said David Evans, a Baltimore County school system personnel officer.

This legislative session, the General Assembly approved a Maryland HOPE scholarship program to provide grants to some students who plan to go into teaching and other incentives, including $1,000 signing bonuses.

At yesterday's five-hour job fair, Baltimore County's recruiting effort seemed to be paying off. The fair had been advertised throughout the mid-Atlantic area, and the parking lot included cars with license plates from Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

"Pennsylvania graduates too many teachers and Maryland doesn't seem to have enough, so I figured I would come here and try this," said Jason Nast, 23, who graduated in December from Pennsylvania State University and hopes to teach at an elementary school. "I'm hoping this is where I can get a job."

In past years, the job fair has attracted between 700 and 1,500 prospective teachers, Evans said, and yesterday's attendance seemed to fall in that range.

Some of the applicants weren't new college graduates, but teachers looking to transfer from other systems. "I love the kids in the city, but I think I would rather teach in Baltimore County because there are more resources," said Kristine Kern, a second-grade teacher in Baltimore. "Baltimore County pays more, too."

The county schools don't hire during the job fair, "but there are many people who will get contacted very quickly about jobs," Evans said.

By the end of summer, Baltimore County educators expect to hire 800 to 1,000 teachers for the 1999-2000 school year -- roughly the same number as the past couple of years.

Teachers and administrators from all 161 county schools manned booths advertising their schools yesterday. Many booths were decorated with balloons in school colors, and all had baskets filled with hard candies or other goodies.

"I think we meet some pretty good teachers here," said Andrea Belzer, a second-grade teacher trying to persuade others to join her at Baltimore Highlands Elementary School. "It's real stressful for them, but we just want to answer questions and get them interested in our school."

Even schools without expected openings collected dozens -- if not hundreds -- of resumes.

In the back of the exhibition hall, 18 prospective teachers sat side by side to be interviewed by assistant principals. Every 30 minutes, a new batch of applicants was interviewed, and by the end of the day as many as 180 interviews were expected to have been completed.

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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