WINSTON-SALEM — With less than a week before students return to class, the pressure is on to make sure each of those classrooms has a teacher in it.
Chances are, some Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will not meet the deadline.
On Monday, the district still had 81 open teaching positions.
“At this time last year, we had 52 total positions,” said Alex Hoskins, spokesperson for the district. “With 47 at elementary school (this year), that’s quite the bump.”
That’s right. As of Monday, there were still 47 open positions in Forsyth County elementary schools. Traditionally, elementary positions have been some of the easiest to fill. Hoskins said the majority of those openings are for regular classroom teachers, though there is also an acute demand for exceptional children teachers and bilingual teachers who speak both Spanish and English. There are an additional 16 openings in Forsyth County middle schools and 18 in high schools.
The district is reaching out to its pool of substitute teachers and teacher assistants who were previously working in a part-time capacity to fill some of the open positions.
Individuals could become full-time teachers through a process known as lateral entry, which allows qualified individuals to start teaching while still working toward a teaching license.
Hoskins said the district is also reaching out to retired teachers, looking for those who may want to reenter the classroom.
Still, it’s unlikely that all 81 positions will be filled by the start of school Monday.
“Some students will start the school year with a substitute teacher,” Hoskins said.
Jeff Faullin, principal at Brunson Elementary, filled his last full-time opening just last week. He still has three part-time openings.
“We try to work early, in May and through June, but there are some positions that are more challenging to fill than others,” he said.
This year, Faullin had openings in first, second, fourth and fifth grades. He also hired a new media coordinator, assistant principal and guidance counselor.
Faullin said he is glad to have all of those positions filled. He’d like to fill the three part-time positions for reading specialists, but he said those are at least not as critical for starting the school year.
Travis Taylor, the principal at Carver High School, was also hiring up to the last minute.
Taylor said math teachers were particularly hard to find this year. He filled his last teaching position — in the math department — Thursday.
“We were coming right down to the wire to get everyone in place,” Taylor said. “We’re fortunate.”
Taylor has 11 new teachers this year. While that’s not unusual, he said, for his staff of 63 teachers, the pool of candidates did seem to be smaller this year. That was particularly true, he said, for math and science — fields where individuals can often find much larger salaries outside of teaching.
On Tuesday, Johnathan Stowe was getting ready for his first year teaching high school math at Carver.
“I’m still working on my syllabus,” Stowe said, standing next to a pile of posters waiting to be hung on his bare classroom walls.
Stowe, who previously taught remedial math at Guilford Technical Community College, was just hired in July. He said he received several offers but chose Carver because of the school’s strong community.
That community is made up of people like Charita Ward, head of Carver’s math department. Across the hall, Ward had nearly all of her posters already up. Ward said she’s glad to have a full team of eight math teachers on board; she wasn’t sure all of Carver’s teaching positions would get filled by the start of school.
“It was kind of scary,” she said.
Forsyth County is not the only district still hiring. A teacher shortage is hitting districts across the state, especially those is large, urban areas.
As of this week, the Wake County Public School System is still advertising 89 elementary teaching positions, 45 at middle schools and 44 at the high school level. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have nearly 200 teaching openings, with positions at every level.
Hoskins said schools will continue to hire this week and hope to have more positions filled with full-time teachers when students return Monday.
“It’s safe to say that we are sure our efforts will pay off,” Hoskins said, “all we will be able to have a licensed teacher in the vast majority of those classrooms once school starts.”
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