At one point last school year, the Lancaster County School District was looking at nearly 300 open teaching positions.
To close the gaping hole, Superintendent Johnathon Phipps says they ramped up recruitment efforts and starting posting the positions much earlier in the year.
Less than a month before the first day of school, there are now just 21 teacher positions open.
“When you look at the number of openings we have at this point, compared to our normal the last couple of years, we’re actually in a lot better shape,” Phipps said. “We’ve never had 275 employees.”
In past years, they have relied on substitute teachers and doubling up classrooms. In those cases, the shortage was felt by other teachers.
“We feel like we kind of have to pull the dead weight up and we have to make sure that those kids are still getting that quality education,” Second-year-teacher Hunter Durham said.
Phipps says with 21 openings, there will still be some doubling up classrooms, but the right educator is worth the wait.
“Of course we want to fill those positions, but we don’t want warm bodies, we want good educators,” Phipps said. “I would rather start the year with combining classes than having the wrong person in that position.”
He says recruiting for education positions has always been at tough sell since it is known that teaching is not a lucrative job. However, he has found that the it has been an even hard sell for new graduates.
“I think a lot of folks that are in college, by the time you look at your debt you have to pay from tuition and everything else—then look at the starting teaching salary, it is a tough pill to swallow,” Phipps said.
Starting salaries for Lancaster County teachers are in the $30,000-$32,000 range, according to Phipps.
Still, educators say the positives of the job far outweigh the negatives.
“Learning children and getting to experience them as they grow up and figure out themselves, is very rewarding. And getting to know that you were a part of that is very rewarding,” Durham said.
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