State budget cuts forced Mid-Del Schools to trim its workforce for the 2016-17 school year. The district eliminated nearly 100 positions including more than 60 certified teaching jobs.
But that doesn’t mean the district is ready take down the “Help Wanted” sign just yet.
Three weeks into the new school, and Mid-Del Schools is still looking to fill more than 40 vacancies including six certified teaching positions. The district also has openings for teaching assistance and in the special services, child nutrition, and maintenance departments.
“Bus drivers, special services teachers and special services positions that require highly trained personnel are still the most difficult to fill,” said Rick Mendenhall, Chief Human Resources Officer for Mid-Del Public Schools. “That is the same problem we have faced previously.”
The district is seeking more teaching assistants than originally planned, due to increased enrollment at the elementary schools.
“When we staffed back in the Spring we used the current enrollment numbers,” Mendenhall said. “Over the summer time students moved into the district that caused some class sizes to be larger than we anticipated and we addressed those increases by adding teacher assistants.”
Mendenhall said the staffing cuts have led to fewer requests for emergency teaching certification this year. The district was granted 15 emergency teaching certifications in July and August, according to the State Department of Education. Emergency certifications are awarded to candidates with a bachelor’s degree who are on a path to become certified in their field of need.
Statewide, schools are becoming more reliant on emergency certifications to fill teaching vacancies. At the August meeting, the State Board approved 349 emergency certifications. That is in addition to the 304 it approved in July and the 77 early renewals in May and June. For the 2017 fiscal year, the state has approved 740 emergency certifications. The state approved 1,063 emergency certifications in 2015-16 and only 32 in 2011-12.
The Oklahoma State School Boards Association says the combination of inexperienced teachers and larger class sizes is a dangerous combination.
“People who have never trained a day as a teacher are now responsible for teaching elementary school students how to read and do math. We have high school students who can’t take Spanish because their school can’t find a teacher. We are hemorrhaging teachers to Texas, Arkansas and Kansas,” said Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, in a news release. “This is what it looks like when a state fails its schools and its children.”
Mid-Del Schools has tried to draw people to the teaching profession with open house events this Spring. While district officials were pleased with the events, Mendenhall said it’s difficult to measure their effectiveness.
“A direct correlation between one event and the number of teachers we hire is never apparent, but the more recruiting events we have the more we expose our district to people who might be thinking about being a teacher or who are already certified teachers and want to see the inside of our classrooms,” he said. “In essence, it gives people new to our District a window to the great things going on in our schools.”