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Cumberland County Schools Dealing with Classified Teacher and Staff Vacancies

By Michel Futch | Personal editor

Cumberland County schools have more than 200 vacancies in their certified teachers and classified staff — a number that includes 117 instructors — as the district heads into the new school year, a committee said Thursday.

The school system, like others across the country, struggles to recruit certified teachers and other relevant staff. Uncertified classified positions include clerical, janitorial, supply and bus driver positions.

On Thursday, the Cumberland County School Board’s personnel committee voted to approve a presentation on the state of its personnel. The full board will address the staff discussion at its regular monthly meeting on September 13.

Ruben Reyes, the school system’s assistant superintendent for human resources, told council members his presentation was about “the standard staff roster for this time of year.” .”

President Greg West asked Reyes if he could provide an overall update regarding district personnel.

Regarding the overall vacancies, Reyes replied, “Certified teachers – we are at 117 teachers in pre-K-12, including exceptional children. Classified staff, we are at 101 vacancies. This includes office, custodial and teaching assistants. All classified personnel. And 56 unstaffed bus lines.”

Board member Susan Williams said there were teacher aides on the roster who were trying to get certified to drive a bus, and they couldn’t.

“There’s a waiting list,” she repeated, “and they can’t be trained, and they want to work.”

“You’re right,” Reyes said. “There is a backlog. I know the Department of Transport works with the Department of Motor Vehicles. They must provide trainers. We can’t go out and hire our own coaches. We looked at that. We wanted to hire up to 10. They must be (approved) and work for the DOT.

“We have increased our allocation, but not as much as we would like,” he said. “There is a training lag. They work as diligently as they can…”

Board member Donna Vann wondered if the school system could offer the DMV to find the people and that the district would pay for them.

“Been done that,” Superintendent Marvin Connelly Jr. joked with a laugh.

Reyes said DMV is also struggling to fill those positions.

Reyes also shared information about vacancies statewide.

“The last report I saw this morning, in terms of statewide numbers, there are about 11,000 vacancies in public education right now,” he said. “Not all districts are reporting. This is based on a superintendent’s report that we participated in. And there are approximately 3,700 teaching vacancies in the state of North Carolina and 11,000 vacancies in total statewide.

As for teachers, schools in Cumberland County have about 117 vacancies from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, according to Reyes. The numbers change daily, he added.

“When we wrote the superintendent’s report,” he noted, “there were approximately 87 teaching vacancies. Class teachers. The exceptional children (instructors) were part of it. When we talk about teachers, that number includes counselors and social workers. So the number I give you is all of our certified staff.

“Some of our PASE schools (programs) are fully staffed, and we have some that are not,” he said. “As we discussed earlier, PASE schools – you have more improvement challenges than our other schools. like everyone across the country.

PASE stands for performance, accountability, support and empowerment. These are the Tier 1 schools in the district, which are designated as low performing by the NC General Assembly.

The last figure he said he looked at, likely in early August, the system had hired about 330 new staff this year. This, he added, is part of the realities of public education.

“We will continue to roll up our sleeves,” Reyes said, “and work with and hire the most qualified candidates.”

In response to a question from board member Carrie Sutton, he said the system looks at school enrollment numbers and lumps some classes together.

“Because they were really under projection,” he said.

Over the next 10 days, he said, the school system will assess the fall numbers. At this point, school officials will determine if they need to adjust allocations.

“But we won’t know until we return in the fall,” he said.

Students on the traditional calendar return to school on Monday.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be contacted at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Do you have a topical tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

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