A number of teacher retirements the past couple years has had administrators working hard to fill open slots this year.
Districts across the state scrambled to fill open teaching positions up to the start of the school year. Teacher retirements were higher the past couple years because of changes to the State Employee Retirement System.
Indian Lake Local Schools was one that hired a number of teachers for the current school year. Superintendent Patrick O’Donnell said the district hired a total of 11 new teachers for the current school year – four to replace instructors who retired, and the rest were hired to replace vacancies caused by teachers heading to other districts.
“It is normal for Indian Lake Schools to have four or fewer teaching employees retire yearly. However, state changes to retirement rules and benefits have caused an increased number of teaching retirements in districts throughout the state,” O’Donnell said. Some Indian Lake teachers move to fill positions in other districts created by those retirements, or they move into administrative roles also caused by retirements in other districts.
Riverside Local Schools Superintendent Scott Mann said there were “quite a few” retirements in the past couple years, which he attributes to changes in the retirement benefits system. He did not have specific numbers of retirements for the district.
O’Donnell said he does not expect a large number of retirements next year, but it can be difficult to predict the number of teachers who choose to move to another district. Mann said he believed most teachers retired this year, so he does not expect a large number of retirements for the end of the school year.
One way to fill vacant slots is to rehire retired employees. Indian Lake and Riverside have not had to do this, the superintendents said. At Indian Lake, the district calls on retirees to serve as substitute teachers when necessary, O’Donnell said.
Indian Lake may hire at least one retired high school teacher to help start a large 21st Century grant program designed to help high school students who are struggling to graduate. That grant, however, pays for support staff, so the district would not have to chip in.
Filling teacher slots can be challenging in math, science and special education, O’Donnell said, because those subjects are in high demand and districts must compete for applicants. The district hired a math teacher in August because of an unexpected late-summer resignation, he said.
Mann said it was not difficult to fill his vacant teaching positions this year for most subjects, but it was tough to find a foreign language teacher.
Despite the difficulty of filling some vacant teaching positions, O’Donnell and Mann said they do not think there is a teacher shortage in the state.
But O’Donnell added that changes to the way the state funds schools and conducts assessments “may have a negative effect on the number of quality students who perceive teaching as a worthwhile career option,” he said.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.