- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

Teacher vacancies in the D.C. school system have fluctuated between five and 20 on a week-to-week basis since the beginning of the school year on Sept. 3, said a consultant in the school system's Human Resources Recruitment Services Office.
"Right now, we have the teachers to fill the vacancies," said consultant David Sigler, who attributed the fluctuations to teacher retirements and resignations. "Principals are interviewing and making their selections, and we are putting the teachers into the system. We had a great recruitment season. We can fill the need."
Other local school officials said their teacher recruitment and retention efforts have succeeded as well as the District's, even though they could not provide information about how many teachers have quit since the beginning of the school year.
Prince George's, Fairfax and Montgomery counties had more than 1,000 teacher vacancies last spring and dozens of positions just before school opened a month ago. Most school district officials said the openings have been filled.
"We're really pleased at how the hiring season went," said Terri Czarniak, coordinator for recruitment for Fairfax County schools. "There was a huge increase in applications. Principals had lots of choices."
The nationwide teacher shortage has made it difficult for school systems to find teachers for special education, science and math over the past several years.
Several factors exacerbate the shortage, including high teacher turnover and retirement rates, and increasing student enrollment forcing recruiters to interview teacher candidates throughout the year.
U.S. Department of Education statistics show that one in five public school teachers quits within the first three years of employment, and more than 9 percent quit before making it through the first year.
Kevin North, director of employment services, said turnover in Fairfax County is typically between 9 percent and 10 percent each year. He also said 1.6 percent of the county's new teachers had left by Feb. 1.
Recruiters said there is no lack of candidates for most subjects, but the pool of applicants for special education, math and science is small. For instance, the Fairfax school system usually receives 13 resumes for a single teaching position in most subjects but gets just two for a job in special education, Mr. North said.
But hiring teachers has been easier this year than in the past because teachers were reluctant to seek other employment in a shaky economy and wanted the security offered by education jobs, recruiters said.
Recruiters also said they needed to hire fewer teachers than last year. For example, Fairfax had to hire about 400 fewer teachers this year than last year.
School systems also have become more competitive in offering salaries to attract teachers.
Prince George's County schools gave teachers a 5.5 percent pay raise the biggest in the area this year to attract more teachers, particularly certified ones. The school district has the second-lowest number of certified teachers in the state.
This month, the county school system is expected to terminate about 150 provisional teachers lacking certification.
The state required teachers to have been certified by Tuesday to meet the requirements of a new federal law. County school officials yesterday said those provisional teachers must present their certification by today.
Prince George's schools offer starting teacher salaries of up to $35,225. In the District, a teacher can start with a salary of $35,260. Fairfax offers beginning salaries of $34,750, while Montgomery offers $36,841.
D.C. schools, which employ about 5,000 teachers, started the school year with fewer than 10 vacancies, school officials said.

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