LUMBERTON – Robeson County public schools are facing a teacher shortage as they prepare to welcome students on Monday for the start of the new school year, but work hard to ensure students receive a quality education.
The PSRC has “a multitude of teachers” on the verge of retiring in the coming years, and quite a few vacancies, according to the school district.
“The teacher shortage is real, significant and growing, and worse than we thought,” said Robert Locklear, deputy superintendent of program, education and accountability for the PSRC.
There are around 90 vacant teaching positions, leaving roles to be filled by substitute teachers, he said.
“For every class without a certified teacher, substitutes have been hired to fill this role until certified teachers are available for employment. Program supervisors and academic coaches will provide instructional support to meet the needs of all learners, ”said Melissa Thompson, assistant superintendent of human resources at PSRC.
In order to fill vacant teaching positions, the school system is offering an enrollment bonus of $ 3,000 to all new recruits in fields “considered difficult to fill”, including Kindergarten to Grade 6, Mathematics. , science, english / language arts, exceptional kids. , or English language learners, according to PSRC officials.
“Login bonuses are provided by federal funds known as Title II. Title II funds can be used to provide additional activities that enhance the quality and effectiveness of teachers, principals and other school leaders, ”Locklear said.
The school district is also experiencing a growing shortage of math teachers.
There are 17 vacant math teacher positions in the district, according to Gordon Burnette, PSRC communications manager.
On August 10, the PSRC Education Council approved a math employment contract that allows certified middle and high school math teachers to teach other students via video during their planning period. A substitute teacher will be in the classroom with the students, but the agreement ensures that all students receive instruction from a certified teacher. The school district has implemented the program for the past few school years.
“Our goal is to ensure that every student enrolled in a math class receives daily instruction from a certified math teacher,” said Catrina Bailey, Mathematics Supervisor at PSRC.
Thirteen schools will transfer math education to seven schools with high needs, Burnette said.
Larry Brooks, principal of Lumberton Senior High School, will work with three of his teachers to help provide instruction to students at other schools, such as Red Springs High.
Pembroke Middle School principal Anthony Barton also said his school was happy to help bridge the gap through the math job deal.
“Our school is very excited to share the high quality math education our students enjoy with other schools in our district. We know that the shortage of math teachers in our state is critical right now. We also know that students deserve high quality math education in our classrooms every day, and we are ready to share that with our sister schools in Robeson County, ”said Barton.
School district vacancies are affected by teacher retirements and staff changes, according to Blair Rhoades, director of communications in the North Carolina Department of Public Education.
“The staff changes made by the PSRC to leverage highly effective teachers to provide strong coaching and mentoring to early career teachers has increased the need for classroom teachers this year,” said Rhoades.
However, vacancies do not exist exclusively in Robeson County. Parts of the country are also facing vacancies, including North Carolina as a whole.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, regions in North Carolina this school year face a shortage of teachers for core elementary education subjects: math, language arts, science, social studies and all special education courses.
The North Carolina Association of Educators joined others on Aug. 13 in urging state-level lawmakers “to pass a better state budget that solves a chronic problem of job vacancies in the world. ‘education in rural counties,’ according to the NCAE.
The Association wants a 2021 budget that increases the salaries of school guards, teaching assistants and others to $ 15 an hour “like all other state employees,” argues the addition of more educational support vocations and funds the improvement of school facilities through a statewide compulsory schooling, according to the CNAE.
The average number of teachers who choose to leave the profession each year is between 7,000 and 8,000, Rhoades said. The figures for the past three years are “remarkably stable”.
“The number of vacancies statewide has always been remarkably stable. At the end of September, the statewide teacher vacancy rate is typically 1-1.5%. It’s a low rate, and we’re working very hard to make sure it stays as close to zero as possible, ”she said.
“The existing vacancies are not out of the norm or unusual, compared to the overall population of individuals needed to educate North Carolina public schools,” Rhoades added.
Billie Jo Harris, director of licensing for PSRC, said that to qualify as an educator in North Carolina, applicants must complete the required undergraduate courses, pass the required standardized exams, and complete a teacher preparation program. state approved.
PSRC is working with local colleges, such as the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Robeson Community College, to meet the need for more certified educators.
“We continue to work closely with Robeson Community College and UNCP to collaborate on how they can help the PSRC address the teacher shortage by developing residencies for teachers, who have successfully recruited talented candidates into schools. high need areas to work as paid apprentices for qualified and expert teachers, ”Locklear said.
The school district is also using “high school career paths” to recruit and support local teachers, he said.
The State Department of Education “continues to have ongoing conversations with PSTs (teacher preparation programs) to address teacher recruitment and retention needs,” Rhoades said.
Team members focus on these areas when they travel to different school districts, Rhoades said.
“Robeson County Public Schools are committed to maintaining a clear focus on what is most important to all of us – our students. Each of our schools will create a student-centered learning environment by providing our students with individualized instruction designed to meet their diverse needs, supporting the mental and emotional health of our students, and exposing our students to opportunities for development. ‘authentic learning that empowers and inspires them to become fit for the future,’ wrote PSRC Superintendent Freddie Williamson in a letter to parents and students dated Aug. 13.