Local schools avoid worst teacher shortage | New

by ALEXANDRA RETTER

As schools across the country begin a new school year, many are reporting staffing shortages. Locally, schools are experiencing staffing needs while feeling relatively comfortable with employment levels.

When Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) began hiring staff for the 2022-23 school year in March, there were 58 vacancies, human resources director Emily Solheid said. Now the district has 12, and of those positions, only one is a role requiring an education license, she said. Other districts have bigger challenges, Solheid said.

The district is still trying to fill an early childhood education position, Solheid said. It has been more difficult to fill because it is a part-time position that is not eligible for benefits, she continued. She said she was slightly concerned about the vacancy because a substitute teacher might be needed early in the year to keep the program running.

The district has also been unable to fill a general music teaching position at the middle school, Solheid said, so a current staff member now covers classes.

“I feel like as a district, we’re probably in a little better place than my colleagues across the state,” Solheid said, adding that she’s heard of some who are still trying to fill five. to seven roles requiring an education license, including in the field of special education. WAPS was able to fill about seven special education positions, she said, only a few of which were filled by education graduates not specifically in the field of special education, meaning that they need special authorization to teach in this field.

Cochrane-Fountain City (C-FC) School District Superintendent Troy White said C-FC is “probably a little better off” when it comes to staffing compared to other districts. On the first day of school, the district filled its teaching positions, he said, by hiring 10 people. C-FC anticipates that there will be one teaching vacancy for a department by the end of the school year, as a staff member has returned from retirement to teach in the department for a limited time, did he declare. The district also recently hired several support staff to help in areas such as classrooms and the kitchen, he said. Meanwhile, C-FC is contracting with a state organization for personnel in areas such as running the special education department and providing physical therapy, he continued. “We’re running out, but the schools seem to be doing an amazing job of figuring that out every September,” he said. It seems that more and more people are leaving the education profession, he said, as they reach retirement or face the continued struggles in education resulting from the pandemic, while that fewer people join the profession.

Districts continue to work to recruit new staff. WAPS staff have attended several job fairs to try to recruit new employees, Solheid said, and staff continue to update job postings online. In addition, staff receive a newsletter from the human resources department containing information on job vacancies, she said, so they can share these details with others who may be interested to come. work at WAPS. There has also been some creativity in combining part-time jobs or cutting working hours to encourage people to accept positions, she added.

At C-FC, social media and word of mouth are some of the tools used, White said. He said he had spoken with higher education providers offering opportunities for those pursuing higher education to gain construction experience before graduating.

School board member Jim Schul said that while WAPS is working to meet staffing needs, he would like the school board to assess the needs of the human resources department. He expressed some concerns about the need to ensure that the ministry is staffed and supported. School board president Nancy Denzer said if the board does, it should also assess the needs of all other departments.

Families have recognized the importance of schools during the pandemic, White said, and staffing needs come down to that recognition. “The value we provide to communities has such a big impact beyond whether or not children learn a subject,” he said. “We need everyone to realize this and help close this gap so that we have enough staff to do this.”

Education@winonapost.com

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