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School districts are struggling with hiring fully credentialed teachers because of the growing teacher shortage in California.

In order to fill positions with fully credentialed teachers, school districts are resorting to incentives such as sign-on bonuses, longevity bonuses and financial aid for relocation. If that doesn’t work, some districts are forced to hire teachers with short-term permits and little experience.

Short-term permits are one-year permits used to fill in spots when a fully credentialed teacher is not available.

The Hanford Joint Union High School District offers bonuses for teachers who sign on at the beginning of the school year.

The district’s superintendent, Bill Fishbough, said the district also offers to help with expenses for teachers who are relocating from a different state. He said that last year, the district helped two teachers relocate from Louisiana.

Fishbough said that because of the shortage, the district is starting to hire teachers earlier for the upcoming school year. He added that in the past, the district typically started hiring in March.

“Last year, we did our own job fair in February and this year we moved it to January because the competition is so great,” he said.

Fishbough said the district currently has teaching positions open for math, science, special education and agriculture.

Reef-Sunset Unified School District is going to offer sign-on bonuses for the first time this coming school year.

The district’s superintendent David East said the district may consider recruiting out-of-state teachers.

“We always struggle primarily because we are remote,” East said. “We do struggle sometimes just on a normal situation.”

East said the district hired roughly eight teachers last year — not a large number. He said there is more of a struggle with hiring high school teachers than elementary teachers.

Corcoran Unified School District Superintendent Rich Merlo said salary plays a big role when attracting teachers who are fully credentialed.

“In order to be competitive, there has to be a competitive salary,” he said.

The district offers teachers longevity bonuses and tries to pay at least 100 percent of the district’s lowest health plan.

“It’s hard to fill positions where teachers are fully credentialed and are ready to go,” Merlo said.

Lemoore Union Elementary School District Superintendent Rick Rayburn said the district hired 31 teachers this year and only seven were fully credentialed.

“The main thing is colleges are not putting out a lot of teacher candidates right now,” he said. “There is a shortage in the pipeline.”

Rayburn said that with new funding available, districts are adding classes and programs not offered before. This has led to even a higher demand for teachers who are not available.

He said the district needs to fill teaching positions at every grade level.

Rayburn said it is especially difficult to fill teaching positions for special education because of the challenge in the job itself.

“First of all, you have to be a very special person to work there,” he said.

Rayburn said the district is looking for incentives to attract more fully credentialed teachers and is currently talking about how much the bonuses will be for teachers who sign on and stay after their probation period is up.

“You want to make sure that the people you give bonuses to stay around with you,” he said.

Colleges

The teacher shortage doesn’t just apply to K-12 schools. Colleges have also been affected.

James Preston, West Hills College Lemoore’s dean of educational services, said that for a while there was a teacher shortage in math and science at the college but now it is everywhere. Preston oversees the schools Team Teach program, which supports future teachers.

“At least at our level, we are seeing a strong interest in students,” he said.

Preston said that with the shortage, they are trying to push students through to a four-year university and into a credential program — a requirement — to become a fully credentialed teacher.

He said the college is trying to develop a partnership with California State University, Fresno, to offer a two-year cohort program for transfer students, giving guaranteed classes at the campus. He said that after graduation, students can enter an internship or enroll in a credential program.

Dr. Frederick Nelson is project director of the Strategic Teacher Education Partnership (STEP) at Fresno State.

STEP is set to redesign the liberal studies program — an undergraduate major for aspiring elementary teachers. With the new program, more counseling and advising will be available to students along with flexible and guaranteed classes to get them through in a timely manner, Nelson said.

“Obviously we are in a teacher’s shortage,” said Nancy Akhavan, single subject teaching credential co-coordinator at Fresno State.

Single subject credentials are for teaching a single subject — like English or math — for middle and high schools. She said there has been a decrease in enrollment over the years but recently the number of students started to pick up.

Akhavan said with more funding available, schools have more jobs available thus creating a high demand for teachers. She said in the past that was not the case.

“People weren’t attracted to the teaching profession because there were no jobs,” Akhavan said.

Akhavan said they have been advertising in local newspapers and districts in Fresno, Porterville, Sanger and a few others to attract more students. She said she hopes to form partnerships with the districts in Hanford and Lemoore.

From recruiting to teaching

Sierra Pacific High School teacher Shelsy Hutchison changed her career to lend a hand in the teacher’s shortage.

Hutchison previously worked at Brandman University as the manager of community and corporate relationships where she recruited potential teachers. She said she saw the need for more teachers and wanted to help.

“I am at an age where I think I have a little bit more leniency to make a career change,” Hutchison said. “I am always willing to try new things and of course helping the need.”

This is her first year teaching and so far it’s been good. She teaches business and is currently working on her teaching credential at Fresno Pacific University in marketing sales and service and business and finance.

“Teaching is such a rewarding position and for too long we have been worried about making money,” Hutchison said. “Doing something that you are passionate about is more important. Kids need passionate teachers.”

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