EDMOND — Leaders in the Edmond school district are using some new ploys to lure in the best from a diminishing pool of teacher applicants.
“I am a full believer in helping the community, that is why I wanted to teach,” said Monica Nguyen, who attended last week’s secondary job fair.
“That is the whole purpose of teaching, right? We are supposed to help these communities flourish,” Nguyen said.
The district also held a job fair for primary teachers, and each attracted about 100 applicants. But possible budget cuts mean the district might not be able to fill all the posts it is advertising.
“We just have to wait until we know for sure,” said Nancy Goosen, the district’s director of special services.
Only those jobs that will be vacant at the end of the school year are being filled, Goosen said. New positions are on hold.
State budget uncertainties and higher pay offered by other states means Edmond can no longer count on attracting a lot of teachers who start and end their careers with the district, Goosen said.
“Because of the high turnover rate, people leaving the state, we are losing teachers within three years,” she said.
Out of the district’s 164 special education teachers, Goosen is filling 10 of the positions for next year. And many of the other teachers are nearing retirement.
“That is really where it is hurting, cause my teachers have been with us for a long time,” Goosen said.
Applications on file for Edmond teaching jobs are down to about 250 from the usual pool of about 1,500, Superintendent Bret Towne said.
“We are all concerned about the teacher shortage. It is real,” Towne said. The job fairs were held to attract applicants for 61 open positions, he said.
“Used to, teachers would just come to you and you could just pick, now you have to sell yourself, you have to sell your school, you have to sell your community. You have to make them see that there is something maybe more than just a paycheck,” Towne said.
‘It is about the kids’
Nearly a dozen emergency certificates were issued for the current school year, something unheard of in Edmond. Several positions went vacant.
“Used to we would not even accept an emergency certificate. We would send the principal back to find somebody who was certified, but they are just not out there,” Towne said.
Several of the open posts involve science and mathematics, areas Edmond North High School Principal Jason Pittenger said it is hard to find applicants for.
“It used to be that Edmond would draw the best of Oklahoma, and there were a lot of them. And now we draw the best of Oklahoma, but just not as many,” Pittenger said.
“This year you know it is just encouraging to see applicants. It is hard to find teachers in Oklahoma; they tend to go to other states.”
Ryan Dillard, a graduate student at the University of Arkansas, came for the secondary job fair, never having lived in Oklahoma before.
“I heard of how great the Edmond school district is and drove here to apply,” Dillard said after speaking with administrators from Central Middle School.
“It is about the kids, it is about who you are teaching, it is about doing what you love, because you love it, not how much money you make,” said Brena Neely, who drove from Stillwater to apply.
CAPTION: Monica Nguyen shakes hands with Lisa Adams, Edmond Santa Fe High School assistant principal, after handing over her resume. [Photo by Eriech Tapia]