June 24, 2022 - 6:00 am
Clark County School District officials met Thursday to discuss how best to address teacher vacancies at some of its schools as it grapples with a labor shortage.
More than a third of Clark County schools have a teacher vacancy rate of 10 percent or more, while 26 schools have a vacancy rate higher than 20 percent. The district had more than 1,500 teaching positions posted on its online job portal as of Thursday.
The vacant positions could mean larger class sizes, cuts to extracurriculars such as art and music and teachers being forced to give up their preparation time when students return to campuses in the fall.
Among the possible vacancy solutions discussed: advertising the district’s recent $7,000 bump in starting teacher pay, more incentives to hire and retain teachers at schools with the greatest need and surveying teachers who have chosen to remain in the district.
“We’re dealing with a challenge and a crisis that has to be addressed,” Superintendent Jesus Jara said Thursday. “This is to start the conversation of what we’re seeing and then obviously to come back to you once schools open in the fall with some of the next steps.”
Numbers not the full picture
Teacher vacancies throughout Clark County are not equitably distributed, and groups of already-marginalized students will be disproportionately affected by the shortages, according to a heat map of the affected schools that the district presented Thursday.
Nearly 80 percent of students at schools with at least a 20 percent teacher vacancy rate are Black or Hispanic, with the affected schools focused primarily in the northern part of the valley.
But the teacher vacancy numbers presented by the district didn’t include vacancies in special education classrooms.
Trustee Danielle Ford questioned why.
Ford asked whether schools that were in the most impacted areas of the district’s map of vacancies were in an even worse position once special education vacancies were factored in.
“Without that data I don’t really feel like it’s a complete reflection of the severity of the teacher vacancy crisis in the district,” Ford said.
What’s driving teacher vacancies?
Throughout Thursday’s meeting, speakers acknowledged the difficult past two years teachers have contended with during the pandemic.
A Gallup poll this year found that 44 percent of K-12 employees “always” or “very often” feel burned out at work, outpacing the percent in all other industries.
In Clark County, teachers have also had to contend with a spike in violent confrontations on school campuses this year that culminated in the brutal assault of a teacher at Eldorado High School this year.
Autumn Tampa, a reading intervention specialist in the district, said that she has worked at every single school that was on the high-percentage list of vacancies and that teachers and support staff were not receiving adequate support and training.
Tampa also called on the district to shore up its availability of substitute teachers by providing them with benefits and professional development.
Ryan Fromoltz, a teacher at Las Vegas High School who has worked in the district for 10 years, also called on the board to make the district more attractive to new teachers.
“We need to start with you all trying to fix this mess,” Fromoltz said. “If they don’t see that the seven of you can work together and that trustees can stop bashing people online including employees and civilians, we’re not going to get this fixed.”
A district spokesman said that the district plans to address the vacancies by buying teacher preparation periods and combining classrooms. The district will also use substitute teachers, deploy central office employees and reassign school-based, non-classroom strategists to deal with the vacancies.
Carol Tolx, the district’s chief human resources officer, also said the district plans to work with the state’s Department of Education on licensing requirements and license reciprocity with other states, in addition to exploring additional certification pathways.
Tolx said she was pleased to see that the district conducts exit surveys for outgoing teachers and hopes to gather more qualitative data from teachers who have chosen to remain in the district about why they’ve chosen to stay.
She also said she hopes to work with schools to advertise their job openings on their individual marquees.
“That’s an easy way for us to market and be seen across the county,” she said.
In addition to marketing the district’s new starting salary of $50,115, Superintendent Jara referenced the targeted marketing efforts the district has undertaken in school districts in California and Florida when those states have passed controversial laws or when teachers have undertaken strikes.
“We have to do more across the board,” Jara said.
Contact Lorraine Longhi at 480-243-4086 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @lolonghi on Twitter.