Local districts pursuing teaching prospects through several channels

Administrators in several area school districts acknowledge that the current recruiting environment for teachers and support staff is among the most challenging they’ve faced in years.

“It’s becoming more difficult every year to fill our spots,” said Dr. Mark Hall, superintendent at South Madison Community School Corp. “There’s a lot of competition out there (to fill) jobs right now.”

Although the Indiana Department of Education’s job board currently lists more than 1,400 open teaching positions across the state, many of those are going unfilled because of a lack of qualified applicants. The shortages, many believe, were exacerbated in the wake of the pandemic, during which an estimated 2.6 million educators quit their jobs in the public education field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Additionally, prospects for mitigating those shortages appear bleak, according to a recent survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. It found that in 2021, 19% of undergraduate-level and 11% of graduate-level teaching programs at universities across the country saw a significant drop in enrollment that year.

“I believe that everyone is — or should be — concerned about this,” said Dr. Joe Cronk, superintendent at Anderson Community Schools Corp. “With the high level of scrutiny and, at times, unrealistic expectations now placed on teachers, there is a reduction in students wishing to enter the profession.”

The problem, Cronk notes, could become worse before it improves. Based on student population projections over the next decade, he expects the need for qualified teachers to remain steady or likely increase.

Officials at ACS and other local districts said they’re tapping a variety of pipelines in their efforts to attract and retain teaching talent. South Madison, for example, has established relationships with Anderson and Ball State universities to provide internship and volunteer teaching opportunities for students in those programs.

“We’re trying to recruit people into the district prior to student teaching,” Hall said. “That gives us about a four-month interview window. But we are having to be far more aggressive in our recruitment than we’ve ever had to be.”

Hall added that the district has added financial incentives – including increasing paid maternity and paternity time – to its standard contract offerings in an effort to “do some things that maybe set us apart from other districts.”

Other schools are mining leads from social media and other industry-specific national platforms.

“Additionally, we have provided professional development activities and wellness initiatives to prepare and retain current employees,” said Dr. Sterling Boles, superintendent at Frankton-Lapel Community Schools.

ACS also recently became part of Ball State’s Student Voluntary Services system, which provides opportunities for education students to fulfill course requirements through substitute teaching, among other assignments. Those mostly volunteer opportunities, officials hope, could lead to full-time employment after graduation.

To supplement those efforts, Cronk said, ACS is “working with Anderson University and other groups locally to recruit more volunteers.”