Summer Break?

Teachers Feeling Money Pinch Find It Not So Easy To Get 2nd Job

July 06, 2009|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,john-john.williams@baltsun.com

Teacher Scott Delpo never expected he would have to spend his summer break in the classroom.

In fact, he had gone 17 years without having to work summer school. But this summer, Delpo, 39, says he was forced to get a job in large part because of the economy.

"Honestly, I've been able to get by without having to work in the summer," said Delpo, who is a physical education teacher at Cradlerock School in Columbia during the school year. He's teaching math to rising second-graders this summer.

"With the economic times and the price of energy going up, I knew there weren't as many opportunities to work elsewhere that would pay the same."

More teachers like Delpo, who are traditionally 10-month employees, say they are forced to work this summer because of the economic uncertainty but are finding their job search to be difficult, hampered by rising unemployment rates.

The economy is "struggling" nationwide and to some degree here in Maryland, according to Daraius Irani, director of applied economics at the Regional Economic Studies Institute of Towson University. Teachers will have particular problems finding jobs in retail, construction and real estate, he said.

"If you are an employer, you may not feel the demand is there to hire a person during the summer," Irani said. "You may simply rely on your full-time employees. There is still some nervousness for the economy."

Employers will likely view teachers the same way they do other seasonal part-time workers such as college students or teenagers, which could be a problem in this economy, according to Irani.

"Whatever industry [teachers] are going into, they will face the same challenges as a part-time or full-time person," Irani said.

One teacher in Baltimore County had such a difficult time getting summer work that he ended up leaving the county after finding a summer job - and a full-time one - elsewhere.

Robert King, who taught algebra at Lansdowne Middle School, couldn't find a summer school teaching position or a tutoring job. In fact, the third-year teacher said he didn't even receive a callback. As a result, he decided to contact his former employer - a group home for people with developmental disabilities - in Frederick, and was immediately hired to work during the summer. He also inquired about a teaching position in the area and was hired at a higher salary as a middle school algebra teacher in Washington County.

A contentious battle in which teachers in Baltimore County did not receive a cost-of-living increase this year combined with a lower cost of living in Washington County ultimately resulted in King taking the new job.

"I had to make some serious decisions," said King, 31. "It was a common sense decision. I really liked the school I was at. But I was going to be losing money the way my cost of living was changing."

King said a lot of his fellow teachers are having trouble finding work this summer.

"A lot of the people looking have not had much luck," he said. "Everybody I talk to, the problem is finding something for a month and a half. No one wants to invest that money on someone to work one month. Last year everyone got hired for summer school. This year it was a small number. It shocked me that, as a third-year teacher, I didn't get called."

Audra Butler, Delpo's boss for the summer, decided to work a second job again this summer because of the economy.

Butler, who runs Cradlerock's summer school program in addition to working 11 months out of the year as assistant principal, wanted to earn extra money after several rounds of layoffs at her husband's employer, Verizon.

"We are banking everything we can," Butler said.

And it appears she is not alone. Butler says she received double the amount of applications to teach summer school this year than she did last year. And she had the same number of positions to fill.

"Last summer I had trouble finding teachers," she said. "This year I'm overrun. It was more competitive this year."

The reason?

"I'm guessing it's the economy," Butler said. "I'm hearing stories that spouses are being laid off, people are worried about investments. Any extra money would be appreciated over the summer."

But some teachers in Baltimore City may have had an easier time finding jobs this summer in their field. The city public school system actually has more teaching positions available this year - 1,939 compared with 1,129 a year ago - for its summer learning program. The school system restructured its program to allow principals to implement programs at each school instead of operating in a cluster format.

"Maybe some of these teachers may have done something else," said spokeswoman Edie House Foster. "But the possibility for a job was better with our summer learning program."

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