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Articles: Human Resources

A digital rendering of Los Angeles USD’s 66-unit, four-story Selma Community complex of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, set to be completed in fall 2016.

From Newark to Los Angeles, districts building affordable homes for teachers hope to better retain and recruit staff as local housing costs rise and salaries remain stagnant.

Many states and districts are facing unprecedented teacher shortages. As a result, many have implemented or are expanding existing programs that offer alternative routes to licensure or certification for those seeking to become teachers from another career.

“What’s the Real Story on K-12 Employee Absences” examined absence data from 4,450 public district. (Click to enlarge)

Districts spend over $25 billion annually on teacher absences, and consistent absences negatively impact student achievement, past studies have shown. A recent study examined teacher and classified staff absence data during that month from4,450 public districts.

The Upsala Area School District in Minnesota created incentives that have enticed teachers like Heather Johnson, from Upsala Elementary School, to retire when the school year ends.

For many districts, early retirement incentives are considered a good business practice—a way to cut top-heavy payrolls and replace teachers whose heart may no longer be in the classroom. But without good planning, these incentives can have unintended financial and academic costs. 

At the Tacoma School District in Washington, Heather Gooch is a substitute teacher at Mann Elementary School. Tacoma recently started using social media and paying subs more in harder-to-fill schools. It has improved the quality of subs there.

Amid a nationwide shortage, some districts have strengthened certification requirements, increased communication with substitutes and hired staffing agencies to keep their classrooms full.

At the Spokane Educators Career Fair in Washington last year, teacher candidates look for jobs.

Superintendents are turning to an array of new and creative strategies, such as starting the hiring process earlier, looking farther afield for recruits, offering perks and signing bonuses to new hires, and ramping up efforts to help candidates earn teaching credentials.

While teacher quality is known to be the most significant factor both in student achievement and the overall success of a school district, the recruiting and hiring of teachers often lacks a cohesive, comprehensive strategy. Hiring less-than-ideal candidates can have far-reaching consequences, negatively impacting student learning as well as strategic district initiatives, and contributing to high turnover and instability.

The many requirements for becoming a school bus driver may deter people from entering the field.

Several months into the school year, many districts nationwide still face the worst bus driver shortage in recent years. Some are offering signing bonuses and increased wages to attract more people to the job.

Only 6 percent of school bus contracting companies nationally had enough drivers this year, compared to 15 percent with no shortage in 2014, according to a survey from School Bus Fleet magazine. Nearly 30 percent of respondents said they had a “severe or desperate” shortage of bus drivers this year.

Combating a $1.1 billion deficit, Chicago Public Schools’ new budget proposal phases out district pension contributions for central office, regional and non-union support staff. The district says the change will save about $11 million annually once fully implemented in 2018.

A state-mandated $676 million pension contribution accounts for a large chunk of the deficit, district officials say. Unlike most other districts in Illinois, Chicago and its local taxpayers are required to pay 7 percent of the 9 percent pension contribution for all employees.

Cave Creek USD had three unfilled teacher positions last year. This year, administrators are offering a signing bonus to attract new teachers to the area.

Many classrooms will remain without a permanent teacher this fall, as the teacher shortage becomes more severe in some states. Major enrollment drops in teacher prep programs signal worsening conditions in the coming years.

Leslie T. Fenwick is dean of the School of Education at Howard University. Her upcoming book is "Jim Crow’s Pink Slip: Public Policy and the Near Decimation of Black Educational Leadership After Brown."

Leslie T. Fenwick has been praised as “a fearless voice in education on behalf of communities of color.” Her upcoming book, Jim Crow’s Pink Slip, will examine the cultural and social implications of educational policy as it relates to race equity and the principalship.

New National Association of School Nurses president Beth Mattey is the school nurse at Mt. Pleasant High School in Delaware.

Beth Mattey was named president of the National Association of School Nurses in June. Mattey is the school nurse at Mt. Pleasant High School, part of Brandywine School District in Delaware. In her remarks at the group’s annual conference in June, Mattey said that school nursing is the foundation of healthy schools.

Principal selection has not significantly changed since the 1950’s and is often unsystematic. While the role of the principal has evolved greatly over the last 60 years, the methods used for selection have remained stagnant. In the 1950’s, principals’ duties centered primarily on staffing and facility management. Today, school principals may be responsible for tens of millions of dollars between facilities, personnel, and discretionary funding.

Brandon Palmer, a national board certified teacher, conducts research on principal selection.

The continuous cycle of improvement is a paradigm often used in education to explain activities that result in personal growth through reflection. So the interview process—when enhanced by constructive feedback sessions—can also be used to provide professional development to prospective teachers and administrators.

R. Pepper Crutcher, Jr., is a labor and employment attorney with Balch & Bingham LLP’s Affordable Care Act Strategists Practice Group. He regularly advises businesses, schools and other entities on their obligations under the Affordable Care Act.

An enforcement agency writes a rule to solve a specific problem. Applied to other situations, the rule makes less sense.

Will the agency restrict enforcement to those situations clearly referenced in the rule or will the agency enforce the rule more broadly? Among Affordable Care Act watchers, this is a common question.

Parsing the rule

Here’s an example. Do the IRS Employer Shared Responsibility Cost final rules convert substitutes into full-time teachers for employer mandate purposes?

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