HENDERSON — Vance, Warren and Granville county school systems are each experiencing staffing shortages, some that are not due to COVID-19.
Officials say some of the factors that play a role in the shortages include early retirements and that fewer college graduates are choosing teaching as a career.
Warren County Schools officials say they’ve had problems yearly in filling positions especially in science, math and special education. The decline they’ve seen is from a smaller pool of qualified candidates to choose from, due to there being a steady decline in the number of college students pursuing the degrees necessary to become teachers.
“As a small, rural school district, it’s difficult to compete with other districts in our region that use more local funding to increase teachers salaries above the state’s standard base salary and higher than less-wealthy school districts,” said Heather Lawing, the Warren district’s chief communication and engagement officer.
Lawing says the district is also seeing more people choose to retire earlier than they originally planned. Some of those who have been working as substitute teachers have stopped filling in or have cut back on how much they are willing to work.
The Warren schools are also having a difficult time finding food-service workers. But all of its bus driver positions are filled.
“We believe the stability in our staffing levels and low turnover rate show that our employees are dedicated to serving Warren County, have strong ties to the community, and they feel valued for the work they do every day,” Lawing said.
Granville County currently has 45 active teacher and teacher assistant vacancies. Some are for special services, like academically or intellectually gifted classes, exceptional children and English as a second language.
In past years, the school district would have around a quarter that number of vacancies, officials said.
Granville County schools are enlisting long-term substitutes, contracting with recently retired teachers, and using third-party contractors in some cases to provide support. District officials say this year they’re getting creative by hiring about a dozen foreign teachers and paying some teachers extra to take on instructional duties during their planning periods.
The Granville district advertises openings with all North Carolina and many universities along the East Coast for recent or upcoming graduates. It also recruits virtually, especially because of COVID-19. The Granville County Public Schools has LinkedIn presence, and officials attend job fairs along with actively recruiting in the community. They also recently implemented a signing bonus to attract new teachers.
“I am not sure what to say about the long-term effects of this situation, except something must be done at the state level to incentivize talented individuals to enter the profession and to retain those who are already committed,” said Stan Winborne, the district’s associate superintendent of curriculum, instruction and student services. “It’s becoming a crisis, and something must be done to support local school districts. Our students deserve better.”
Meanwhile, the Vance County Schools currently has openings for bus drivers, exceptional- children program teachers, physical education teachers, English teachers, and in career and technical education programs, specifically business and agriculture.