Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools are employing several different strategies to compensate for the high number of teacher vacancies, including paying additional current teachers to hire more students, attracting certified teachers from the central office to the classroom and broadcasting live virtual instruction to classrooms of certified teachers across the country.
On Tuesday, the school board approved a contract for Proximity Learning to teach math and science at three colleges facing some of the biggest staffing challenges — Philo Hill, Winston-Salem Prep and Mineral Springs. The combined cost of the one-year contract is about $540,000, with money coming from vacant teaching positions funded by the state and Forsyth County. The company will provide live instruction for 25 classes. Students will meet in class and an adult will be present.
Established over 10 years ago, Proximity Learning works with over 100 school districts across the country. Due to increased demand for their services as a result of the nationwide teacher shortage, the company is unable to immediately fill local vacancies, said Leslie Alexander, director of human resources for the district.
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“It’s not an area we want to be in. We don’t necessarily want to have to do that,” she said. “It’s like a National Guard event. They provide assistance in domestic emergencies. And this, in our view, is a national emergency. These children need to have instructions in front of them. The school district now has about 36 vacant teaching positions, up from 85 on Aug. 24, Alexander said.
In addition to classroom vacancies, the school district has 63 bus driver vacancies. However, 33 potential employees obtain a license to drive a bus. He also has eight openings for bus driver mechanics and 75 openings for kitchen assistants, Alexander told the board.
When it comes to the teacher shortage, the school district is tapping into a resource at its disposal – certified instructors at the central office. Approximately 55 certified central office staff worked at WS Prep, Mineral Springs, Philo-Hill and Flat Rock, Paisley Magnet and North Forsyth High School colleges. These schools have the most vacancies, according to information presented by Alexander at the board meeting.
The school district is increasing salaries, up to 16% in some cases, for teachers willing to accommodate more students in their classrooms.
“It’s really an effort to maximize and provide support to our staff who we know are certified and can do this job,” Alexander said.
Looking at the bigger picture, Alexander said the school district is working to build a pipeline of educators, with programs in place with local colleges, and is relaunching a compensation committee that will seek to create a compensation structure. competitive compensation to attract and retain teachers.
The full compensation committee will include district leaders as well as employee representatives. The first meeting will take place the second week of October.
For the immediate future, Alexander said the district has run out of creative recruiting strategies to find new employees.
“At this point, we’ve exhausted everything we know how to do,” she said.