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JCPS scrambles to fill classroom and school bus vacancies ahead of 2022-23 school year | In depth

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Many key classroom and bus positions remain vacant at Jefferson County Public Schools as we approach the start of the 2022-23 school year.

The Jefferson County School Board heard updates Tuesday on staffing issues in the district ahead of the next school year, particularly on the district’s efforts to recruit and retain certified teachers in classrooms.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio offered a stark assessment of the staffing issues facing JCPS and other school districts across the United States as interest in education careers slides.

“The outlook for the teaching profession at present in this country is not good. It really isn’t,” he said. “I think anyone who sits at this table for the next decade will give the same presentation every year in one way or another.”

JCPS has 342 teaching openings listed on its jobs website Tuesday night, but Aimee Green-Webb, district human resources manager, said that number doesn’t include new hires who haven’t signed their teaching contract.

“We have already signed 48 contracts this week,” Pollio said. “We had 57 job offers today.”

The district plans to fill classroom vacancies with staff holding teaching certifications, such as district resource teachers and instructional coaches, who can be assigned to schools on 12-week rotations through an agreement with the Jefferson County Teachers Association.

In total, Pollio said JCPS has 125 vacancies to fill.

“I’m confident we’ll see a certified teacher in every classroom,” he said.

Pressure to fill classroom vacancies comes at JCPS amid a record number of teacher resignations in the 2022-23 school year, when 437 educators voluntarily left the district as of June 30, said Green. This is the highest in the past six years as 337 teachers resigned in the 2018-2019 school year, according to data presented on Tuesday.

As of June 30, 96 other teachers retired in the past school year, the lowest since the 2016-17 school year, when 92 retired, the data showed. But those numbers don’t include the 74 educators who retired in July, up from 26 last year, Green-Webb said.

Green-Webb said the district is taking steps to listen to staff concerns, noting an expanding pilot project in which school administrators get direct feedback from teachers through confidential surveys.

“Principals can focus on what’s going to work in their school for their school community, their students, so being able to scale that to every school will absolutely make a difference,” she said.

JCPS is also working to improve the exit interview process in hopes of increasing “abysmal” response rates, she said.

But Diane Porter, chair of the board of directors who represents District 1, said district leaders could do more in response to staff concerns.

“What we keep hearing is that we don’t listen to our staff,” she said, drawing applause from some in the audience. “…We need to get the information.”

Compensation is another element of the district’s strategy to recruit and retain teachers in classrooms.

“I’m happy to hear that we’re very competitive in terms of salaries with other districts, but I think we also have to keep in mind that we’re not as competitive with other industries,” said Board member Chris Kolb, who represents District 2. “…I’m glad we were able to do something quite substantial this year, but as (County Teachers’ Association President of Jefferson) Brent McKim noted, this is after several years of flat or declining wages, so it has to be something we’ll do for the next few years.”

The district also hopes to hire more bus drivers for the August 10 back-to-school season.

Seventy bus routes remain uncovered ahead of the next school year, although operations manager Chris Perkins said about 80 potential bus drivers are in the district’s hiring pipeline after the recent one-day push to new drivers.

“We’re going to experience some delays on day one,” Perkins said.

The district is exploring the possibility of creating an online dashboard with “live, accurate information” for parents about bus delays, he said.

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