DELTA COUNTY, Mich. (WZMQ) – Like other districts throughout the region, Gladstone and Rapid River Schools have struggled to find teachers for the upcoming school year.
According to Jay Kulbertis, Superintendent for both districts, the issue arose during the pandemic.
“Prior to that, we really saw just a little bit of tightening up on the number of graduates that were coming out of teacher colleges,” he said. “During COVID we saw a lot of retirements, a lot of people moving.”
Kulbertis says math and science are the most difficult teaching positions to fill. For rural schools like Rapid River, filling those positions is even more difficult.
“As you get further away from those centers of population, it gets harder and harder to recruit, especially in those tough-to-fill positions,” said Kulbertis. “The competition for quality workers.”
For the Delta Schoolcraft Intermediate School District (ISD), Superintendent Doug Leisenring says the biggest need is special education teachers.
“Being a special education teacher can be challenging,” he said. “It’s a challenging position working with a group of a dozen kids with completely different needs and different interventions you have to apply for them, so it’s a lot of work.”
Substitute teachers are also in short supply.
“One of our roles in the ISD is to provide professional development and support for teachers,” said Leisenring. “Teachers can’t attend those workshops anymore–or they rarely can–because there’s no substitute teachers to cover for them.”
However, schools are finding ways to combat staffing issues.
The ISD is incentivizing potential school psychologist candidates with a $10,000 signing bonus. Gladstone and Rapid River have filled several positions with alternate certification programs through the state, as well as by helping existing teachers expand their certifications.
Kulbertis says it’s all in an effort to stay ahead of shortages and provide students with the best education possible.
“We used to post your positions in June, do your interviews in July, make your hires in August,” he said. “Now, we anticipate our openings in February, post in March, interview in April, and make our hires in May so we have the ability to hire anyone that’s just finishing school, and anyone that’s thinking about moving, we want to get them before they decide to go anywhere else.”