By Dedra Cordle
South-Western City School officials say that while the district is still looking to hire additional employees to fill a variety of positions as the new school year gets underway, the overall employment numbers are stable and there should not be a negative impact on the daily operational functions.
At its regular meeting on Aug. 28, the board of education was presented with the current staffing numbers by the assistant superintendent of personnel. According to Dr. Susan Hayward, the district has a robust number of certificated employees but it does need to continue recruiting to boost the numbers at the classified level.
“When school started, we were almost fully staffed with certificated staff and we continue working toward being fully staffed with classified positions,” she said.
The certificated staff consists of guidance counselors, nurses, psychologists, teachers, and tutors. The vast majority of the district’s 2,700 employees fall under the certificated designation. Officials say that while the district is considered to be fully staffed on the certificated side, there are a few positions with long-term or building substitutes fulfilling those instructional roles.
“These few positions are primarily at the K-4 level and in the form of intervention specialists,” said Evan Debo, the district’s executive director of communications. “As we look ahead to November and December, the personnel department plans to be aggressive in recruiting potential December teaching graduates from area universities and colleges to fill those remaining positions for the second semester of the school year.”
He added that the district has not experienced a negative impact in the opening weeks of school due to these substitutions on the certificated side, nor do they expect to see a negative impact on student instruction in the future.
“Since the number of certificated vacancies is thankfully low, we do not anticipate any negative impacts coming to fruition this school year,” said Debo. “However, we plan to keep the foot on the gas pedal on the recruiting trail as to be prepared for any unforeseen absences such as staff medical leaves of absence which do happen on occasion.”
In regard to substitute teacher staffing levels, Hayward said the district’s pool has risen substantially in comparison to the start of the previous school year. They currently have 312 board-approved substitute teachers on hand for the start of the 2023/24 school year, compared to the 184 they had on hand at the start of the 2022/23 school year. She said the district will continue its substitute incentive program this year, which allows for lump sum payments of $500, $750, and $1,000 after working 50 days, 100 days, and 150 days, respectively.
Where the district is having some trouble with its staffing numbers is at the classified level, which consists of aides, bus drivers, cooks, interpreters, mechanics and school office workers. Classified employees make up 37 percent of the district’s overall employment numbers.
Debo said the district is looking to hire 20 education aides, three bus drivers, 13 part-time cooks, three custodians, and two maintenance workers for the 2023/24 school year.
“As opposed to the certificated side, our classified staffing is where we inherently see more of a need for part-time and full-time positions,” he said. “When we think about the support networks around instruction, our staffing positions that transport students safely to and from school, prepare meals and feed them, and flank certificated staff in the classroom, they are invaluable to the education we provide. While substitutes continue to be invaluable in helping us address these needs, many substitutes understandably have other commitments throughout the week and may be unable to fill the same vacancy day in and day out. From that standpoint, the net loss in between hiring and recruiting efforts can be felt in terms of feeling a staffing pinch in relation to continuity.”
Debo added that the district will continue to recruit these positions as robustly as they will for the certificated side.
To apply for open positions, visit swcsd.us and click on the ‘Careers’ tab under the main menu for more information.