With 12 days left until the entire district returns, the Dallas Independent School District still needs to fill roughly 230 teaching positions.
Labor shortages have hit every industry and education is no different. School districts across the country have been rocked by two and a half years of pandemic living and learning.
According to a spokesperson for Dallas ISD, the district has filled 98% of its teaching vacancies and expects a job fair on Thursday will help further close the gap.
“I’m concerned, but I’m not overly concerned,” Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde told reporters this week. “To be fair, if I’m a parent and it’s my child whose classroom doesn’t have a teacher. Me giving a statistical number doesn’t make me feel better, but our staff and our leadership are being super creative.”
To attract top talent, Dallas ISD advertises a starting salary of $60,000 for new teachers along with a signing bonus and incentives for secondary math, science, bilingual and special education teachers.
“At Dallas ISD we’re committed to having a qualified and certified teacher at all of our classrooms on the first day of school to make sure our students have a great first start,” said Robert Abel, Dallas ISD’s chief of human capital.
The district is also expanding its Alternative Certification Program to apply to elementary school teaching positions. The program allows someone without a teaching certificate to apply for a job and then undergo training toward that certificate throughout the school year.
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“We have quite a few different methods and opportunities currently under the district of innovation to be able to bring in teachers who may not officially have certification, but certainly have the acumen, the potential and with our support can be great teachers in the classroom,” Elizalde said.
Rena Honea, president of Alliance/AFT, the local teachers union, says it’s a program proven successfully among Dallas ISD's high schools, particularly for recruiting teachers for vocational or specialty classes. But she's worried about expanding it to elementary schools.
“You’ll start day one just like everybody else, but not have as big of a toolbox to use with those kiddos,” Honea said. “This is on-the-job training and I would hope [the district] would notify the parents of those children.”
Honea said the last two years have been extremely difficult to retain and attract teachers amid the pandemic, attacks on educators and low pay.
“I can tell you the last couple of years have just been exhausting, Honea said. “It’s difficult to get people to come in and Dallas is doing everything it can.”