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PG County’s schools lack 200 teachers

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Prince George's County will open public schools Monday with about 200 teacher vacancies, but will use qualified substitutes to make sure every classroom has an instructor, officials said.

The school system has filled 1,100 of the 1,300 openings and is in a better situation than last year with roughly 300 vacancies, spokesman John White said.

The county improved the situation largely with a $300,000 advertising campaign to recruit more qualified teachers.

"By starting earlier and competing aggressively, we've successfully hired more teachers than in previous years," Mr. White said. "We have done a good job of making sure there's a teacher in every classroom, even if it's a [qualified] substitute, but we're committed to making that number even smaller."

He also said education programs in Maryland colleges and universities produce only 2,500 graduates each year, which makes competition for them fierce among school districts.

The starting salary this year for county teachers with a bachelor's degree is the 205-school system, including charter schools, is $43,000, officials said.

With a projected 134,421students, Prince George's has the second-largest system in Maryland and the 18th largest in the country.

Other area systems had as many as 1,000 vacancies but none reported more openings than usual.

William Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education, said yesterday some of the school systems' substitute teachers are not fully certified, but officials are trying to get them credentials "in short order," as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

He also said the school systems have "utilized a number of efforts to bring teachers into the ranks of certified." He cited such programs as Teach for America and Troops to Teachers, which helps service members start a new career as teachers.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said the system started with 220 vacancies this summer but had filled all but 27 of them as of two weeks ago.

"We feel confident that we will be able to open schools with all the declared vacancies filled," she said.

Updated numbers were not available this week, said a school spokeswoman. Schools open Aug. 27.

The roughly 55,000-student system pays $42,370 to starting teachers with a bachelor's degree.

Montgomery County has hired 700 teachers so far and will hire about 50 more in the coming weeks, spokesman Brian Edwards said.

The county had an excellent applicant pool from which to choose, despite the competitive market, he said.

The school attracts teachers in part because of its academic successes, including a 91 percent graduation rate, and the starting salary of $44,200.

Nearly 30 percent of the system's roughly 11,480 teachers are graduates of Montgomery County schools, Mr. Edwards said.

They serve the largest school system in the state and 17th largest in the country — a projected 145,622 students in 199 school. Classes start Aug. 27.

Arlington County will hire about 1,250 teachers before school begins, said school spokeswoman Mary Shaw. She could not confirm how many teachers had already been hired, but said the county did not expect to come up short.

"It's something that's constantly in flux," she said. "It is our goal to have a teacher in each classroom by the first day of school."

The 35-school system will have about 18,000 students this year. The basic starting salary is $42,965. Classes start Sept. 4.

Alexandria public schools spokeswoman Amy Carlini said yesterday the 17-school system also does not have a teacher shortage. The starting salary for a teacher with bachelor's degree is $42,671. The system's projected 10,021 students also start classes Sept. 4.

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