9:22 a.m. PDT August 31, 2016
When school starts next week for Salem-Keizer students, they’ll be greeted by about 300 new teachers.
Superintendent Christy Perry said the district has also hired about 75 support staff and 11 bus drivers.
Almost all special education positions have been filled and 100 percent of bilingual school positions have been filled.
However, they still need more.
The district has reduced its teacher vacancy rate by about 50 percent from what it was last year, but about 30 positions remain open.
These hires are coming in the midst of a national teacher shortage that has been going on for years.
Perry said the shortage of teachers in Oregon came from many years of reductions.
“Young adults didn’t see (teaching) as a career pathway,” said Perry, who started her career as an elementary school teacher. “What they saw … was teachers being laid off. There hasn’t been an incentive for young adults to look at their teachers and think, ‘Wow, this is a great career.'”
She said teaching has also become harder, so students are going in other directions. And without students pursuing careers in education, colleges have reduced their programs.
Now, Perry said, the district is working to reshape the messaging to kids that teaching “is a valued profession; (it) is a great job to have; and, oh, by the way, you can make a really big difference in the world.”
Perry said the recruitment strategies that have been most helpful are the “grow your own” programs — which help students who graduate from the district earn their degrees and become licensed teachers to return and teach in the district — and hiring early.
“This year by the end of March we had dozens of offers and contracts out,” she said. “That’s probably 100 percent greater than this time (last year).
“We know when we are in front of the hiring timeline, and we’re ahead of others and aggressively hiring, we are hiring at the top of the candidate pool,” she said. “Not only are we filling our vacancies, we are filling them with the best and brightest educators coming out of Oregon.”