Albemarle County teachers returned to school buildings this week to prepare for the upcoming school year, but not all teachers needed have been hired.
The county school division had about 18 more teachers to hire of the nearly 200 needed, as of last late week. That’s a much higher figure than usual because of an increase in retirements and a push to hire more faculty members to reduce class sizes. Usually, the division hires about 150 teachers each year.
Clare Keiser, the division’s assistant superintendent for organizational development and human resource leadership, said she anticipated that most of those positions would be filled by the beginning of the school year. Students head back to class Monday.
“Our principals are working hard to fill these positions with highly qualified teachers,” Keiser told School Board members at their recent meeting.
On Monday, various open jobs were still posted, including classroom teachers, teaching assistants, long-term substitutes and school nurses.
Going into this school year, the division had 198 vacancies to fill following retirements, resignations and other factors, which is the most in recent years. Additionally, the division used federal funds to create more teaching positions in order to reduce class sizes and to staff an all-virtual school.
Keiser said this is the first year the division has been affected by the national teacher shortage.
“We are seeing much smaller than typical job pools across all levels and content areas, and very unusually we’ve seen a drop in applicants for elementary teaching positions, as well as English and social studies teachers,” she said. “All of those areas are ones where we typically have very robust job pools. Hard-to-fill positions, as usual, include special education, foreign language and science teachers.”
The 180 teachers already hired for the 2021-22 year started training during the New Teacher Academy last week. The four-day program introduced attendees to the division and their schools, the new strategic plan, the culturally responsive teaching model and resources to use in their classrooms.
“I will say though, even with the smaller job pools, we have been able to hire an incredibly talented and diverse group of teachers who we know will provide rich learning experiences for our students,” Keiser said.
A full report on the new class teachers, as well as the overall staff, will be presented to board members later this fall, including details about demographics.
Division leadership and the board have sought to diversify the teacher corps to better match the demographics of the student body, which is about 61% white, according to an initial breakdown. Meanwhile, the school system’s staff is about 89.2% white, a figure that hasn’t budged much since the 2018-19 school year.
Keiser said the division also is affected by smaller job pools as it hires for support service departments, such as child nutrition, transportation and building services.
“Hiring and training is ongoing and we are hoping that vacancies in these areas will be minimal,” Keiser said.