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“The hiring pool is not there.” Wake reports slight increase in teacher and bus driver vacancies since last fall

CARY, North Carolina – Hiring teachers and other staff to fill vacancies will likely take longer than usual this year, Wake County Public School System Superintendent Cathy Moore told the board on Tuesday. county school.

“The hiring pool is not there,” Moore told the school board. “We are likely to see vacancies take longer to be filled. I think the pool will be thin for a while.

The school system will have to work within that, Moore said.

But school board members said Tuesday they want to see what else the school system can do to recruit and retain school employees, whether it’s changing policies, finding alternative course offerings for students or by increasing flexibility around certain times.

Board members said they were concerned about hiring issues affecting the quality of teaching, the courses offered and students’ time on school buses. Time spent on school buses impacts magnet school enrollment and student behavior on those buses, board member Roxie Cash said.

Council member Jim Martin also noted that some schools are worse off than others and that stopgap measures to cover teachers could lead to lower quality offerings at those schools.

“It’s a matter of fairness,” Martin said. “If we saw a map of this, it wouldn’t even look across the district.”

Martin asked school system officials to return in the future to discuss employee retention efforts, in addition to the recruiting efforts mentioned Tuesday.

Moore said teaching vacancies average about two openings per school, but are not evenly distributed, with up to 10 vacancies in some locations.

The school system has shortened its application process and is holding a fall job fair earlier than usual for January 2023 hires, AJ Mutillo, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, told the council.

Board member Monika Johnson-Hostler, however, warned parents’ patience could run out.

Two high schools in the Johnson-Hostler South School District are each short of 10 teachers. This means that many students do not have permanent teachers for their advanced placement courses and other courses, as principals have adjusted their staff.

“I believe we owe it to them — I owe it to them — to get these families answered,” Johnson-Hostler said. She wondered if schools could enroll students in the state-run virtual school or if schools could use dual enrollment with colleges to help provide advanced tuition.

Some schools may transfer students to the state-run North Carolina Virtual Public School, said district assistant superintendent for academics Drew Cook. But there is a deadline to do so, and some students may not succeed in virtual school, Cook said.

Johnson-Hostler did not name the two high schools, but his district has three: Garner High, South Garner High, and Willow Springs High.

The school system’s hiring struggles have been taken up by other school systems throughout the state. The North Carolina School Superintendents’ Association reported an increase in teaching vacancies as of August 15, compared to the same period last year – an increase from 2,355 to 3,619 in the 98 school systems that responded to the l ‘investigation.
The Wake County Public School System reported 343 teacher vacancies as of Sept. 13, which is more than the 256 reported on Oct. 7 of last school year. That’s a higher total than the vacancies reported every month in the last school year, with the exception of Nov. 1, when 354 vacancies were reported.

Vacancies for bus drivers have not improved since the start of the school year and remain higher than at any time last year. The school system reported 267 vacancies on September 13, down from 268 on September 1 and more than 267 on August 12.

Vacancies for teacher assistants and child nutrition service workers have held at improved levels since major wage increases approved last winter. For these positions, vacancies are 6.30% and 13.05% respectively.

Cash said the decline of bus lines and bus drivers in recent years is now turning families away from the magnet schools the district offers to ensure evenly distributed academic opportunities throughout the county.

“We actually set up the schedule with our transportation to put them on a bus for two hours to go downtown,” Cash said. The school system also depends on well-functioning transportation to achieve its own goals, she said. “It’s like our whole system depends on our transportation system.”

Moore said she is having conversations with other district officials about reducing behavior issues on buses and identifying routes with the most problems to target solutions.

It’s possible that former bus drivers who still have licenses — but have held other jobs in the school system — could return to driving, Moore said. An employee will do so soon, with a bus delivered to him after school.

Board member Karen Carter also urged officials to think about ways to hire bus drivers who only run morning runs or who run only afternoon runs.

District Transportation Manager Robert Snidemiller said few drivers have requested this flexibility in the past, but the district is open to discussing options with them.

Carter said she heard some drivers “just couldn’t handle this split shift anymore,” but weren’t clear they had another option to drive.

Moore noted that the district, while still actively hiring dozens of drivers, has limited capacity to increase bus routes.

The district has taken some buses out of service and has vacancies for repairers and delays in shipping parts, Moore said.

“We don’t have as many buses available as we think,” Moore said.

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