(Posted Oct. 26, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Madison-Plains Local Schools leaders are thinking outside the box in an effort to attract and retain teachers.
“In this day and age, there is a national teacher shortage,” said Superintendent Chad Eisler. “We have an incredibly difficult time finding staff. We were short-staffed last year. We are short-staffed this year. I know other districts are having a very difficult time finding staff.”
Madison-Plains has the added challenge of being a small, rural district, Eisler added, noting it is hard to compete with salaries offered by large urban and suburban districts.
One solution Madison-Plains is putting into play involves a special agreement with the district’s teachers’ union. Typically, negotiated agreements cap pay for experience at 10 years for new hires, even if the new hires have more than 10 years of experience elsewhere.
“Our (teachers’) association recognizes the struggle we’re having, so they agreed to allow us to honor experience beyond 10 years,” Eisler said.
This tool is being applied to new hires this year who qualify, as well as teachers who were on staff before the tool was implemented. The most recent approvals took place at the school board’s Oct. 17 meeting.
Also at that meeting, the board named Ted Zanardelli, art teacher for grades K-6, as the teacher of record for not only those grade levels but also the upper grade levels. Zanardelli is licensed to teach art in grades K-12. Each department must have a teacher of record, meaning someone with a teaching license. Madison-Plains’ recent new hires for art in the upper grades are working toward alternative or supplemental teaching degrees but, until they secure them, they cannot serve as teachers of record. This is another tool that helps with filling positions.
State Report Card
At the Oct. 17 meeting, Karen Crites, the district’s director of curriculum, reviewed highlights of the State Report Card. Overall, the district received 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. This is the first year the state has issued star ratings. The report card measures several factors, including student achievement, progress, graduation, and early literacy.
Under progress, Madison-Plains saw its greatest growth in grades 4-6 English Language Arts, sixth-grade math, English 2, biology, and American history. Crites pointed out that those classes are taught by long-time employees of the district
“We’ve been going through a lot of staffing changes the last few years,” she said. “What makes me smile about this data is these are people who are still with us.”
She added, “The more we can invest in our people, the more we can get them to stay with us, the better our results are.”
One of the areas that could use improvement is the district’s graduation rate. Crites said school leaders are working to set up warning indicators for students as early as sixth grade.
“We want to work with them every year to help them meet graduation requirements,” Crites said.