- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - School districts in New Mexico’s Four Corners area are going the extra mile to hire new teachers, and they are looking at the Midwest for help.

Several school districts in San Juan County have increased recruiting efforts as the number of students graduating from New Mexico teacher education programs has dropped, the Farmington Daily Times reported (https://bit.ly/1ohOkDD ).

For the Farmington Municipal School District - the area’s biggest school district with a large Navajo student population - that has meant sending representatives to Minnesota, Montana and Michigan to recruit teachers. Officials say they received more than 2,000 applications for the upcoming school year at teachers’ fairs in those states.

Chris Pash, human resources director for Farmington schools, said the district has to fill about 60 teacher positions for the coming school year, which is fewer than the number of teachers it hired for the current school year.

“We hired over 100 teachers last year, so we’re actually down a little bit from where we were,” Pash said. But he estimated another 20 to 30 teacher openings could be added as the end of the school year approaches.

Meanwhile, officials of the Aztec and Bloomfield school districts report they face similar recruitment challenges.

“This is the most aggressive we’ve been as a district in recruiting in my 24 years in the district as a teacher, principal and administrator,” Aztec Municipal School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter said.

Bloomfield schools needed to hire about 25 teachers for the upcoming school year, said Chuck Culpepper, director of curriculum and assessment for the Bloomfield School District. On average, about 10 percent of teachers leave the district annually, he said.

The teacher shortage comes as the number of graduates from four-year teacher education programs in the state has declined since 2007, said Michael Morehead, dean of the College of Education at New Mexico State University.

In 2007, 1,113 students graduated from teacher programs at New Mexico’s four-year college programs, according to the Educator Accountability Reporting System report. That number dropped to 732 in 2011 and is expected to dip to 690 in 2013. That year of the report has yet to be compiled.

Morehead believes a number of factors are behind the declining teacher numbers, including accountability mandates from the No Child Left Behind Act, compensation and “impression of opportunity.”

“I think the salaries have not kept pace, especially lifetime salary potential,” Morehead said. “I think there is an environment right now that is putting demands on educators that make people apprehensive about going into it.”

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