City faces shortage of teachers

Officials have less than 8 weeks to find 400 instructors

6 principals still needed

Vacancies may grow after Saturday's resignation deadline

July 13, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Less than eight weeks before school starts, the city needs six principals and more than 400 teachers, despite an effort launched two years ago to do more hiring earlier.

As of last week, 505 teachers had been hired to fill 934 vacancies, Theodore E. Thornton, human resources director, told the school board Tuesday night.

The number of remaining vacancies, now 429, could grow by Saturday, the deadline for teachers to tell the school system whether they are leaving.

"We've got a daunting task," J. Tyson Tildon, school board president, said yesterday. "We're trying every avenue to get those" vacancies filled.

By contrast, the number of vacancies in Baltimore County, which has a similarly sized school district of more than 100,000 students, is about 250. Both jurisdictions usually have to fill about 1,000 vacancies every year because of retirements, resignations and dismissals.

The tightest job market in two decades has made recruitment increasingly competitive throughout the state. Trying to catch up to other jurisdictions, the city began a push two years ago to fill more vacancies earlier, but the system is still hiring hundreds of teachers in August.

Michael Hamilton, president of the Parent and Community Advisory Committee, said his main concern is the caliber of teachers that will be hired in the next few weeks.

"Quality will be an issue at this late date," he said.

School administrators did not know what percentage of newly hired teachers have professional teaching certificates, but the pool of certified candidates still looking for a job is shrinking as the summer wears on.

Thornton hopes some of the approximately 500 teachers who have said they intend to resign or retire will change their minds, given a new salary scale that went into effect July 1.

Beginning teacher pay has increased from $28,448 to $31,722, and the time it takes to get to the highest level -- now just less than $52,000 for teachers with a bachelor's degree -- has decreased by seven years, to 21 years.

Officials hope a second job fair, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 10 at Roland N. Patterson Sr. Academy, will yield another batch of recruits. A fair in June drew more than 800 prospective teachers, of whom 189 were hired and hundreds of others are being treated as "hot leads," Thornton said.

The city also is supposed to get nearly 200 teachers through Project Site Support, a program that provides financial and other assistance to uncertified teachers in exchange for a multi-year teaching commitment. Only 53 have signed contracts so far.

Of the total vacancies, more than 160 are for elementary school teachers. Math, science and special education teachers also are in demand.

Employees at the North Avenue school administration building who have teaching certificates will be dispatched to classrooms if vacancies exist by the time school starts Sept. 5.

"We'll be all ready to deploy that plan if we need to," Betty Morgan, the chief academic officer, told the school board Tuesday.

Tildon said the number of teachers to be hired has increased because of smaller class size and additional special education classes.

He also said more teachers thinking about retirement in the spring probably would have returned had they known then about the salary increase.

Anyone retired as of June 15 will be able to be hired back at the same salary.

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