Sideways Glance at ‘Other’ Data

Many of my teaching friends have headed back to school or will be in the next 3-5 days.  We have all been checking in with each other regarding the ‘first’ day(s) and finding out everything from new schedule, new principal, CA did NOT receive federal ‘Race to the Top’ funds, how the heat has been (especially at schools lacking AC).  One observation which we have all shared is the following: Many new teachers on campus and even more alarming, unfilled positions.

In and of itself, new teachers are a normal occurence as the baby boom generation retires.   What stands out is the unfilled positions, if only for the fact that we are in what appears to be the second dip of a bad economic recession, a ton of teachers were laid off in CA this past school year and there are scads of ads for substitute teachers. 

 There seems to be something acutely wrong with a system which can not fill teaching positions.  Most notable on todays Craigslist is Aspire Public Schools  needing a Gr 7-9 English teacher at Millsmont.  Oakland Unified needs everything so I will not even begin to break down the posts.  Edjoin shows Alameda Unified is missing some part time science and core (language arts/social studies) teachers. Hayward is missing two of the three big sciences and math and English. Berkeley Unified is short a chemistry and RSP person.  Fremont needs a p/t English Teacher. Milpitas needs 1st-4th grade teachers. Los Gatos-Saratoga needs and English and p/t health teacher. Ravenswood needs a core teacher. 

I know HOW the positions can ‘not’ be filled – teachers lacking the correct credentials up to and including not the subject matter, rather the special add on for teaching to children who are ESL.  These positions are and will continue to be filled by substitutes who probably have less certification, experience, desire, vested interest in ‘test scores’, etc.  The WHY part leaves me mystified as there must be teachers with the basic qualifications and school districts should want some one who will take course work to meet deficiencies over some one who is day to day at will.  When I look at posting dates on Edjoin, it is evident the length of time the positions have been open unless the posting organization closed out an ad and reposted to make it appear ‘new’. Craigslist only carries ads for a brief period of time so one needs to check it daily and remember the history of what organization is looking for what position and for how long. An example is Leadership Public Schools in Hayward which needed a science teacher forever and finally ended up with a blind post run by a head hunter or sub agency and apparently obtained a sub for $110/day, no benefits.

This is not the first year for the problem – it is at least the third observable year between my teaching colleagues and myself as we recalled stories of the last five years with teachers being hired two days before school started all the way up to new teachers coming in a month after school started.  Alameda Unified can still turn things around as they have a clause in the contract with teachers where the district is allowed 20 actual school days to adjust for class size, scheduling and so on.  For Aspire Public Schools, they do summer training and team building activities which can not be ‘made up’ except for teaching content. Oakland is getting federal dollars this year to keep a school open but shut it down next year (interestingly I almost taught there but was scared off by a very needy principal six years ago – and then ended up teaching and getting to know two teachers who left the school when we worked together in another district).  The stories go on and on.  If it were not for the fact of many children having their future controlled by ridiculousness, it would be funny, bordering on hilarious. The fact of CA not obtaining Race to the Top funds seems clear – CA can not even do the minimum it needs to do to help itself – why should more money be thrown at it? 

 It should be an embarrassment to any school district to not have positions filled by the middle of July………it should be punishable/sanctionable to not have positions filled by the middle of August, as in finding a new head of HR or replacing a superintendent who did not make it clear to their staff every classroom needs a teacher the first day of school save for major emergencies where even angels may fear to tread.  Where is the outrage – or is this the new ‘normal’ and we have just stopped caring?