With the beginning of school just a day away, Santa Fe Public Schools is still looking for educators — primarily people who haven’t been in the classroom before.

Officials acknowledge they haven’t been able to hire enough teachers to fill all the district’s classrooms and will host another job fair on Aug. 11, hoping to find college degree-holding adults who are interested in teaching while working to attain alternative licensure.

The district made some headway in recent weeks. It had 60 openings in late July but still needs to fill 34 teaching positions. The 2021-22 school year begins Friday.

The district’s website shows listings for almost 260 jobs — many for paraprofessionals and special-education teachers. There may be some pending offers out on those positions, said Howard Oechsner, the district’s human resources director.

At the job fair in late July, the district made nearly a dozen job offers to prospective substitute teachers and degree-holders willing to pursue alternative licensure, Oechsner said.

Of those who accepted their offers, two are already at work.

As the district works to fill gaps, it’s still unknown how many substitute teachers may be leading classrooms when school opens.

Administrators are still examining enrollment trends and may transfer some teachers to higher need schools.

Oechsner said principals may encourage teachers to extend their contracts by “selling” their preparation time to the district to teach extra classes.

The difficulty in finding teachers means some students might start the year with one teacher and end with another.

The district also will host another job fair to find new members for its transportation staff on Aug. 17.

“We’re currently looking, probably most importantly, at bus drivers,” he said.

Other districts around the state also are struggling to fill positions. Albuquerque Public Schools was still looking to fill hundreds of teaching positions ahead of the district’s first day of school next Wednesday, according to the district’s website.

District spokeswoman Monica Armenta said in an interview Wednesday staffing needs are “on par” for where they usually are as the school year approaches. She added the push to find teachers early in the year has persisted for decades.

Senior director of employee processes Dorothy Chavez said that the district would not be hosting further job fairs for the upcoming school year — but may make an effort to host quarterly fairs in the future.

Albuquerque schools also will be turning to substitute teachers and teachers with prep periods to fill gaps at the start of the school year.

Researchers at New Mexico State University next month will release an updated report on teacher and staff vacancies in public schools statewide. The university’s Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation & Policy Center conducts a survey on educator vacancies each year.

Last year’s findings revealed the state had 889 vacancies as of September 2020 — the majority teaching positions in elementary schools and special education.

(2) comments

mark Coble

We don't work in socialist paradise! Give us more stimulus money please.

Grace Mayer

Prior to the pandemic we had a teacher and educator crisis. Low salaries, lack of respect, constant ridicule and let's not forget a punitive evaluation system that drove away many wide eyed college graduates who may have considered this work. We were promised a "Moonshot" and then our raises were taken away and never replaced. COVID hit and we got the launchpad ripped out from under our feet. Ridiculed for not willing to sacrifice our lives our health our families. Santa Fe never praised us for what we did do. We stood up a new remote learning experience for our students, made connections with families in our community and risked our lives to pass out technology, curriculum, books , art supplies, food and basic needs to as many as we could reach. We called and checked in with students in the care of their siblings making sure they were safe and fed. We sacrificed a lot as our work life and home life blurred into a constant anxiety building crescendo. Hybrid teaching was excruciating and untenable. Now we are being beaten with "learning Loss" myth stick and told that we have to accelerate student learning? What happened to the "Self Care" and dealing with the emotional health of our students? Did that happen already because I haven't experienced it yet. We pleaded with representatives and governors to create competitive salaries for educators and begged Santa Fe Mayors for affordable teacher housing for a decade. But it fell on deaf ears and we are at a tipping point. A retiring workforce with no one to replace us and no reasonable, available housing. Fee in lieu doesn't help the average worker that can only rent, by the way. Santa Fe/New Mexico elected officials need to make children a priority and that means they need to support the educators and workers that teach and care for them.

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