Schools continue to feel staffing pinch

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

School starts today in Dubois County, but some local schools are still looking for teaching assistants.

Northeast Dubois, Southwest Dubois and Southeast Dubois school corporations still have openings for instructional assistants going into the new school year. The positions put additional adults in classrooms to aid students who need additional help and are traditionally among the more difficult school posts to fill. The Indiana teacher shortage of the last few years isn’t helping.

Northeast Dubois Superintendent Bill Hochgesang said that in the past, newly licensed teachers usually filled instructional assistant positions while they looked for a teaching job. Now, however, newly licensed teachers find jobs much more quickly simply because there aren’t as many teachers looking for work in Indiana.

“It’s been an issue for about three years,” Hochgesang said.

Schools often hire instructional assistants to aid students with special needs one-on-one, but finding anyone to teach students with special needs, even at the classroom level, has gotten difficult for schools across the state. In April, the Indiana Department of Education released its list of content areas where Indiana’s teacher shortage is the worst. Special needs education is on the list.

Business, computer education, career and technical education, music, early childhood education, secondary language arts, foreign language, English as a second language and STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — also made the list.

In response to the shortage, in 2018 the IDOE launched two websites — EducateIN.org and Indiana.Teachers-Teachers.com — to help connect teachers looking for work to job openings in Indiana schools. EducateIN also includes information about the benefits of becoming a professional educator and about various licensure pathways.

Although local schools were able to fill all their classroom teacher openings over the summer, superintendents said they saw the teacher shortage in the applicant pools. Positions that once attracted large numbers of applicants now only attract a handful.

“This [hiring] season was the first time we really felt it in quantity of applicants,” said Southwest Dubois Superintendent Tim LaGrange. “Overall the number of candidates was way down.”

Fewer applicants has led to concern from administrators about whether or not they’re attracting the highest quality educators. At Greater Jasper Schools, administrators combat that by starting their hiring process as early as possible. That way, they can be among the first school corporations new teachers apply to.

“We feel like by starting earlier, that helps us to have a little more success,” Greater Jasper Superintendent Tracy Lorey said.

Despite the smaller applicant pools, local administrators are confident they hired well-qualified teachers to fill their openings.

As the year gets underway, some local schools may continue looking for staff. At North Spencer, Superintendent Dan Scherry said there are a few large class sizes that administrators will monitor through the first couple weeks of school to determine if they should hire additional aides or even an additional teacher to best serve the students.

As for the schools still looking for instructional assistants, they plan to continue their search.

“We will keep the positions open until filled,” Southeast Dubois Superintendent Jamie Pund said. “Until then, we do what we can to best meet the needs of the students.”




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