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.