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Montgomery Schools facing teacher, staff vacancies before Aug. 29 opening

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Three weeks before school begins, Montgomery County Public Schools is facing roughly 500 teacher and support staff vacancies, mirroring a national shortage of educators that has left school systems scrambling to fill positions.

The school system — Maryland’s largest with roughly 160,000 students — is trying to recruit and hire teachers in a more competitive environment than in previous years, Schools Superintendent Monifa B. McKnight said Monday during a media briefing on the system’s staffing. The school district’s biggest hiring needs are for special education instructors, elementary school teachers and school psychologists.

School districts across the country — including in Montgomery County — are facing significant staffing shortages as a result of the pandemic that led many teachers to leave the profession. Complaints of burnout, low pay and lack of respect from students, parents and lawmakers have also impacted the number of available teachers and support staff.

Despite the openings, the school system is 98 percent staffed and there has been progress in reducing the vacancies, McKnight said. On July 20, there were 396 teaching positions open, compared to the 157 open as of Monday morning. The superintendent attributed the improvement to the school system’s multiple recruitment efforts, including several in-person job fairs and partnerships with community organizations.

The school system is also seeking to hire 367 support staff — including paraprofessional educators and front office employees — and 16 bus drivers.

D.C.-area schools see spike in teacher resignations

“As we are continuing to set up, even until the first day of school, the process will continue,” McKnight said. “The numbers are going to change.” She said the system will continue to fill vacancies with substitute teachers, including several retirees, until the positions are filled permanently.

While the school system works on hiring, McKnight said it plans to maintain its current class sizes in the upcoming school year, which starts Aug. 29. Maximum class sizes vary by grade-level and program. Secondary schools, for example, usually have a maximum class size of 32 students.

The number of teachers who resigned at the end of the most recent school year, 576, was actually less than the previous year when 610 left, according to data provided by the school system in June. The number of teachers who left their jobs in the most recent year is equivalent to about 4 percent of the workforce.

Retirements, however, were up in Montgomery County this year, which has caused more staffing shortages, said Jennifer Martin, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, a union that represents over 14,000 teachers. Martin regularly spoke at county school board meetings during the last school year, warning of increases in teacher and support staff retirements and resignations.

Montgomery teachers union concerned with timing of teacher transfers

Martin was invited to the news conference Monday, but did not attend. Two leaders of unions representing administrators and support staff were present.

Martin said it felt inappropriate to attend, since many of the union’s pleas for workload relief and initiatives to address staff burnout have been unheard, she said in an interview Monday. The union put out its own statement after the news conference, writing that staff members continue to experience “ongoing disrespect” that affects teacher retention. The union criticized a move made by the system in July to involuntarily transfer a handful of teachers to different schools about a month before the start of the school year.

“I completely agree with my sister presidents and the unions who were there today, and with Dr. McKnight, who want to ensure that MCPS is a wonderful place to work,” Martin said in an interview. “But right now, we’re in disagreement with MCPS as to what teachers need for that to be the case.”

Read More: Montgomery Schools facing teacher, staff vacancies before Aug. 29 opening

2022-08-09 01:57:00

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