Teacher Retention and Recruitment at the Top of USD 379’s List of Concerns

Clay Co., Kan. — Recently Emporia State University conducted a statewide teacher survey to see the atmosphere of the industry across Kansas.

The survey was the hot topic during the USD 379 Board of Education meeting on Monday with over an hour spent on the subject.

Data from the survey showed that two-thirds of school districts across Kansas currently report experiencing teacher shortages, 55% of teachers plan to leave the classroom earlier than anticipated due to COVID-19, and teacher vacancies increased 62% between the fall of 2020 and 2021.

Brett Nelson, USD 379 Superintendent, said over 18,000 teachers participated in the survey.

The survey looked to find the strongest drivers that led teachers to be the most engaged and which drivers need more improvement and investment to help teacher retention. They also looked at how satisfied each teacher is with each part of their work.

The graph above is from the presentation on teacher vacancies during the superintendent’s report at the March 21st USD 379 Board of Education Meeting

Nelson added later that the ESU partnered with Kansas National Education Association (KNEA), Kansas Association of School Board (KASB), and United School Administrators of Kansas (USAK) to continually comeback to teachers over a period of time to measure growth or non growth in the state when it comes to teacher retention.

For the Clay County Schools, if 30% of staff left in the next three years that would be 51 vacancies.

Recruitment efforts are underway. Nelson said they have reached out to every regional university trying to find contact information of graduates who are looking for jobs in teaching.

An example the superintendent gave was this year they have had 7 student-teachers and two of them have been hired by the district. He also gave a possible solution.

Other efforts under way include:

  • Recruiting and hiring alternative/restrictive licensed staff
    • MAT, PARA to Teacher, Training to Teacher (T2T) etc.
  • Job/hiring fairs
  • Contacting retired teachers who are outside of the KPERS waiting period
  • Social Media
  • Radio
  • Cross posting open positions
  • Networking with regional school districts
  • Offering signing bonuses
  • College tuition reimbursement

USD 379 currently has six openings. With just six applications and four of those are for the Pre-K Teaching position at Lincoln Elementary School.

The table above is from the presentation on teacher vacancies during the superintendent’s report at the March 21st USD 379 Board of Education Meeting

The problem isn’t one that the district is facing alone with positions in some urban schools sitting open for over a year.

An issue inflating the problem also is the number of graduates getting degrees in teaching from state universities.

Those including virtual options in core content areas, decreasing offerings, or dropping programs altogether.

Nelson reiterated these are not set in stone decisions but these are possible options if the situation worsens and/or positions cannot be filled.

Another incentive the district is looking at adding retention incentives for staff. Every fulltime employee would get $1000 per year up to three years. Nelson said he hopes the board approves the incentives when it comes in front of the board during the May meeting.

Debbie Brown brought up later in the meeting getting ahold of Linn because they’ve had a virtual teacher teaching science classes for at least a year.

Nelson added that the district will be teaching major content areas through virtual learning in the next year.

It comes down to what is going to set Clay County School District, Nelson said, apart from other school districts to bring in teachers.

Board Member Andrew Auld brought up providing childcare to teachers in the buildings and exploring whether or not that would be an option.

Apryl Peerson, Board President, said we have to find ways to outshine other districts so teachers choose Clay County Schools as their home.

A slide from the presentation on teacher vacancies during the superintendent’s report at the March 21st USD 379 Board of Education Meeting

One possible option, brought up by the superintendent, would be to self-contain the sixth grade. Nelson added that they have also been working with other school districts.

At the end of the meeting, Nelson said if there aren’t viable candidates to fill openings by May, then that month’s meeting is going to have some hard decisions.

Jonathan Lang covers state and local news for KFRM and KCLY. You can follow the KCLY or KFRM Facebook page for more stories.

KFRM covers news from across the state of Kansas, the Northern part of Oklahoma, and Southern part of Nebraska.

KCLY coverage area includes the nine counties of Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Geary, Marshall, Ottawa, Riley, Republic, and Washington.

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