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Ohio’s Teaching Draught: Chronic Shortage of Teaching Recruits

Thursday, March 29, 2001 at 4:02 PM

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Later today 90.3 WCPN will broadcast live the first in a series of forums dealing with education in Northeast Ohio. Cleveland School District CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett will open the series with her thoughts on a variety of issues facing the city's schools. One of the issues she'll likely touch on is recruiting. Cleveland is just one school district experiencing a chronic shortage of teachers. There are many others throughout Ohio. 90.3's Bill Rice reports.

Bill Rice- Parma principal Karen Majeski interviews one of more than 200 applicants exploring teaching positions at this Parma City Schools recruitment event. The marathon session was advertised throughout Northeast Ohio. Turnout is higher than expected. Many applicants, such as Kelly Jarrett of Berea, are recent graduates looking to start their teaching careers.

Kelly Jarrett- I finished in December and I’m currently substituting for Berea and Brunswick school districts.

BR- Jarrett’s search for a full time teaching job is in full swing. She’s contacted numerous school districts for applications and infromation, and says some appear to be feeling the teacher shortage more than others.

KJ- Certain school districts, it seems, they’re really out there looking, and others I’ve called and they are more trying to get the teachers to come to them and look. They don’t seem to be interested in sending out applications and trying to get you to hook you into their school districts. So it depends on the school districts.

BR- What school districts, could you name a couple?

KJ- The ones I’ve found are in the Twinsburg area, Ravenna. The ones I’ve called havn’t been interested in sending out applications and are more for teachers to come to the, whereas here in Berea, Parma, Strongsville, Olmstead Falls, those are the ones that I call for an application and I get it the next day and I send it in and they call the next day to have me come in for a structured interview.

BR- Parma City Schools Assistant Superintendent Sarah Sweeney says her district is indeed among the more aggressive when it comes to recruiting. She says in the past it wasn’t uncommon to have applicants in the thousands each year, but those days are long gone.

Sarah Sweeney- Now we’re looking at only a hundred a year in some of the areas, or even fewer in math, science, you might be lucky to have 10-12 applicants, and that’s early in the year. When you get into summer, July and august, most of the good candidates have already been hired. And heaven forbid you get into October, November and someone gets sick or takes a parental leave and you have to fill that vacancy because the candidates are not out there.

BR- Sweeney says Parma is fortunate in that its schools are well-respected remain an attractive place to work, even though its salaries are at the low end among Cuyahoga County districts. She says some urban and rural schools have a more difficult time recruiting applicants, and that’s ironic, since Ohio is near the top when it comes to graduating qualified teachers. But, she says, a lot of them are enticed elsewhere.

SS- Other states come to Ohio to recruit our teachers, they basically steal our teachers. So what we’re tryinmg to do is keep them here in our state. It’s tough to compete with Texas and Nevada because they have signing bonuses. Most districts in Ohio do not have signing bonuses, they don’t pay for moving or for housing.

BR- And just as other states are coming here to recruit teachers, some Ohio districts are going far afield to find qualified applicants. Perhaps the most notable: Cleveland Municipal Schools, which recently sent a team all the way to India to find math and science teachers. Barbara Byrd-Bennett is the chief executive officer of the district. She says the shortage has been especially acute for Cleveland, largely because of the district’s image.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett- Very many people don’t want to come to a place that seems, or has seemed in the past, failing and unstable, and we have to deal with that head on. I think it also had to do with the pay scale. Remember we were 26th of 32 for starting salaries in the county. We are now ninth.

BR- But, she says, teachers in math and science are in critically short supply, and just can’t be found in the United States. The India trip seemed like a good way to go.

BB- After careful deliberation, and clearly a cost analysis and what we thought the benefits would be to our children, we decided that this would in part be an important part of our overall recruitment efforts.

BR- Many school districts are looking for new and innovative ways to recruit teachers. Cleveland’s foray to Indian has apparently produced some success. The district set out to fill 50 posiitions, and officials say they received enough applications from qualified candidates to do that. For Parma City Schools, the recruiting reception has an advantage over the traditional visit to a college job fair: they don’t have to compete with other recruiters for attention. But Assistant Superinitendent Sarah Sweeney thinks the teacher shortage will get worse before it gets better.

SS- One of the reasons the shortage has hit us that we have large numbers all across Ohio, and across the country, who are up there in years and getting ready to retire. There’s a baby boom group up there at 30 years now that’s retiring, so that’s creating a tremendous need.

BR- In Cleveland, Bill Rice, 90.3 WCPN.

Additional Information

* Association of American Educators - Survey on Rules, Regulations and Mandates Show Teachers are at the Breaking Point
* Thomas B. Fordham Foundation

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