Searching for teachers

County schools struggling to attract and retain minorities

November 02, 2007|By Ruma Kumar | Ruma Kumar,SUN REPORTER

Anne Arundel County public schools lose about one in 10 teachers every year, half of them leaving within five years of being hired.

Despite beefed-up efforts to recruit minority teachers, fewer joined the school system this year , and some who shied away said they had heard Anne Arundel schools are "not warm and welcoming" to staff members from diverse cultures.

Last school year, the number of administrators who resigned to take higher-paying jobs in neighboring counties was about a dozen more than in previous years.

The staffing challenges, shared at a school board meeting yesterday afternoon, were part of an annual update the board receives on the system's efforts to attract employees.

The survey of retention and recruitment data prompted school board member Eugene Peterson to call for improved efforts to recruit minority candidates.

Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell said he is concerned that Maryland's colleges and universities are not doing enough to increase the number of prospective teachers. The state needs about 7,000 new teachers a year, Maxwell said, and the state's colleges and universities produce about 2,100 education majors every spring.

"That's ridiculous. The supply is low, but the demand is high," Maxwell said. "I can't hire what I can't find, whether it's a calculus teacher, a physics teacher or a minority candidate."

In Anne Arundel County, 70 percent of the teachers who left last school year resigned as opposed to retired, many of them for more lucrative jobs elsewhere, said Florie Bozzella, director of human resources for the district.

Officials said they were hopeful about that statistic because it marks a drop of 5 percentage points from the previous year. Still, Bozzella said she is concerned about a possible exodus of teachers at the end of the 2008-2009 school year.

Resignations and retirements among teachers have been relatively steady over the past three years because of a beneficial pay package and contract the district has with the local teachers union. That contract will end in 2009, when more than 800 teachers will be eligible to retire.

"If we don't have a good contract in place, I'm very worried we'll see a lot of teachers leave," Bozzella said.

Officials are also worried about losing school administrators. Last school year, 38 percent of the administrators who left the system resigned to seek better pay elsewhere, compared with 25 percent the previous year.

This summer, Bozzella said, the system lost a candidate from a neighboring district because it could not offer a competitive salary. "It was an assistant principal from another district. We were planning to promote them to principal and the salary we could offer them was still $10,000 lower that what they were making already," Bozzella said. "Obviously, they didn't take the job. People follow the money."

The system hired 601 people this fall, 89 percent of them white, 7 percent black and 2 percent Hispanic. System officials went on 41 recruitment trips to look for prospective employees, 16 of them to historically black colleges and universities in an effort to diversify the system's ranks.

Still, Peterson bristled at the data, particularly after Bozzella told him that the number of minority hires this year was down by about 3 percentage points from the previous school year.

"So, you're doing more to recruit minorities but still ended up hiring less? You need to do something about that," he told Bozzella.

The presentation also offered board members an update on the system's progress toward a federal No Child Left Behind requirement that 100 percent of classes be taught by "highly qualified teachers."

The law defines such teachers as those with bachelor's degrees, demonstrated knowledge in the subjects they teach and full state certification. By the end of last school year, 86 percent of the system's classes was taught by teachers deemed highly qualified.

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