Marion County districts approach next year understaffed

Intervention specialists, foreign language teachers, and high school teachers: These are the greatest needs of Marion County school districts as they face a nationwide teacher shortage just weeks away from school. upcoming school year.

Across the country, staff shortages in education range from hundreds to thousandsthe Nevada State Education Association estimating that approximately 3,000 teaching positions remained vacant in that state as of early August.

Across central Ohio, a shortage of bus drivers and restaurant workers is expected to lead challenges for local schools in New Albany-Plainand the same shortage caused Marion City Schools to reduce bus lines for the next academic year.

What District Leaders Find

Although different in scale, each of Marion County’s public school districts has been impacted by the nationwide shortage of education workers, Pleasant Council President Vicki Kimmel and Ridgedale Council President Ryan Cook , saying they’ve seen more staff transition than their district typically experiences, but they believe that’s the reality not just in education, but in many industries right now.

“It’s definitely been a year for us with more movement than we’ve traditionally had, but I really think it’s not even related to our school, even our county, it’s all schools and even all industries. – I see it in my professional work, my daily work too, it seems to be the environment in which we find ourselves,” Kimmel explained of the 33 district transitions this year.

According to Kimmel, the staff left for a variety of reasons, including to take higher or better-paying jobs in the field in another district or to leave the education field altogether.

Acting Marion City Schools Superintendent Steve Mazzi is conducting exit interviews with former staff members to determine why people are leaving after 40 employee resignations were approved by the board at the July school board meeting.

Schools in Marion City had a turbulent 2021-2022 school year as teachers, parents and community members began to report a “crisis of discipline” within the district and several high-level administrators left the district, including former Superintendent Dr. Ron Iarussi and former Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Lawson.

However, Mazzi explained that in the exit interviews he has done so far, he has found that this issue is not the sole reason for all the resignations as the public might believe, but rather a sign that the national teacher shortage has come to Marion.

“Let’s not localize it, because it’s a national crisis,” he said.

Marion City School Board President Kelly Mackay said the district is working to fill those vacancies and “pivot” into the new year, citing a article in the Los Angeles Times reporting that a Southern California district, Los Angeles Unified, is rushing to fill 900 teaching positions and find more than 200 bus drivers just two weeks before the new school year.

She said that while Marion City Schools also worked to a tight deadline to fill the positions, she is grateful the district is not in the position of the Los Angeles District.

Mackay also noted that district staff left for a variety of reasons, including wanting to be closer to family, finding other positions, or leaving the education field, as Kimmel said.

Nevertheless, she hopes that this year the board and administration will hear better and respond to staff concerns.

“We are in a better position to hear and respond to concerns because I think we all want our students to learn and our teachers to be able to teach in a safe environment and our bus drivers to be on a bus and safe” , she said.

Marion Education Association President Jami Rawlins said earlier this week that she was hoping to be heard by the new administrators as she also explained the seriousness of the teacher shortage.

“The teacher shortage is real, and it’s hitting Marion City,” she said. “It just causes more stress for the people who are there.”

For schools in Marion City, the districts’ biggest hiring needs include intervention specialists and high school teachers, Mazzi said.

“You can’t find a specialist teacher. They don’t go to school. You can’t find a science teacher, a math teacher, they just don’t come to the field,” he said.

“We are imploring special education teachers, as well as high school math and science, as are other districts.”

Elgin is still looking for response specialists, according to District Superintendent Lane Warner, who said he first heard there was a countywide need during his last meeting with the other superintendents of Marion County at the end of last school year.

“We, like everyone else, and the last time all the superintendents met in May, I think every school in the county was looking for intervention specialists,” Warner said.

Bus Driver Shortage Affecting Marion County

A sign for replacement bus drivers next to the River Valley bus fleet is posted weeks before the 2022-23 academic year.

In River Valley, Superintendent Adam Wickham also said the district had fewer teacher candidates than in previous years, especially for intervention specialists.

He also said the district is struggling to fill bus driver positions, especially supply bus drivers, but currently has enough to start the school year.

In Pleasant, the district will now offer benefits to all bus drivers, even those working less than 30 hours per week, Kimmel said.

“We are going to offer benefits to bus drivers. We just voted on that last night, so we’re really happy about that as a board. This will be a huge benefit for our staff members who don’t have this opportunity now,” she said.

In Elgin, Warner said there was always a need for bus drivers and replacements as it is sometimes difficult to staff buses for an evening sporting event after the afternoon bus line in due to the number of jobs.

Warner said the most difficult positions to fill are highly skilled positions, adding that Elgin resigned in July for his Spanish teacher and the district had no candidates yet.

The position is still open to applicants, but as of August 4, the district planned to hire an outside service to teach students Spanish via a live video instructor in a class led by a teaching assistant.

Warner noted that he was aware that Ridgedale also currently had a foreign language position open, explaining that Elgin was not the only one unsuccessfully searching for a new instructor.

“I think staffing in education is currently a problem everywhere. I’ve talked to a lot of different superintendents and other people I know in education in different roles, and I’m hearing the same kind of things from people everywhere: that there’s a shortage of teachers, there is a shortage of bus drivers, there is a shortage of all coaches, there is a shortage of referees. Like many other industries right now, we’re struggling,” Warner said.

At Ridgedale, Cook mentioned that the foreign language position is still open, explaining that with the intervention specialists:

“These people are just incredibly hard to find.”

He said the district still has several positions open, like other districts across the county, state and nation as they go through a new struggle with supply and demand.

“We don’t see anything different in Ridgedale than in Pleasant, Elgin, Marion City, Columbus, Toledo,” Cook said.

“I think the big question floating around is: why?”

Noting that he was speaking from his own opinion and not on behalf of the board, Cook, who is the chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the Bucyrus City School District, said he saw a lack of support and respect for differences of opinion. take over society and politics, and he thinks that gets dragged into the classroom.

“That vitriolic style of politics has just taken over, and I think teachers are caught in the crosshairs of that. I know administrators do. I know school board members do it,” he said.

He said he hopes respect for local education and the high school diploma will bring civility back to school buildings where it is lacking.

“I hope I’m wrong. Hopefully we can get that back, but I think that’s a big part of it,” he said.

As districts in Marion County gear up for the new year, Warner said he hopes greater awareness of the teacher shortage might encourage Marion’s seniors to consider pursuing higher education.

“We still need good people to do it. There will always be a need. There will always be children, and as long as this earth is still spinning, there will be children growing up who need an education,” Warner said.

Story by: Sophia Veneziano (740) 564 – 5243sveneziano@gannett.com

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