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Schools hiring teachers for the fall

June 14, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

While he's not talking about recruiting a new starting pitcher or running back, the Washington County Board of Education's human resources supervisor for teacher personnel said his office is learning how to recruit new teachers better in a competitive region.

In some instances, signing bonuses are even used.

Other school systems are after the same teaching candidates, so it's become a matter of recruiting and signing candidates earlier, Rick Gehrman said.

"We're responding quicker than we did last year, to lock them in," Gehrman said.

Tri-State area school officials said, for the most part, they are doing well so far in hiring teachers for the upcoming school year.

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Gehrman said the School Board had hired more than 35 applicants as of June 8, compared with maybe 12 hirings at that point a year earlier.

Final numbers aren't known yet, but Gehrman expects the School Board will need to hire between 100 and 150 new teachers to compensate for resignations, relocations and retirements - including retiring baby boomers.

"Each year we get a little smarter. We learn how to compete," Gehrman said.

This year, school system officials went to Ohio for the first time for recruiting because they learned from previous Ohio hires that the Washington County area and school system is attractive to Ohio graduates who are looking to move east, Gehrman said.

Being able to compete often includes offering a competitive salary in a Tri-State area where competition is tight for teachers, Tri-State school officials said.

Washington County's salary schedule has improved, which has helped, Gehrman said.

The county offers a $35,000 starting salary for teachers with no experience who hold a bachelor's or master's degree, he said.

That's higher than starting salaries for teachers with a bachelor's degree in Frederick County, Md., and Berkeley County, W.Va., but lower than comparable salaries in the Chambersburg and Greencastle-Antrim school districts in Pennsylvania, according to salary information provided by Tri-State area school officials.

For the last two years, the state of Maryland has offered a $1,000 signing bonus to teaching students who graduated in the top 10 percent with at least a 3.5 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and who were applying for their first teaching job, Gehrman said.

Gehrman expects word soon on whether the bonus program will be available for this year's recruits.

Berkeley County doesn't have a signing bonus, but last week the Board of Education approved a housing allowance for teachers because the cost of living is so expensive, Assistant Superintendent Rick Deuell said.

Teachers with up to nine years of experience will get a check in December for $400 to help with their rent or mortgage payments, Deuell said.

Teachers with 10 to 19 years of experience will get $450, and those with 20 or more years will get $500, he said.

"It's a big issue, especially when we recruit out of rural areas," Deuell said.

Frederick County Public Schools might need to hire as many as 300 teachers because of expected turnover and growth, said Paula Lawton, executive director of human resources.

"It's pretty challenging because of our neighbors to the south and east," many of whom offer higher salaries, Lawton said.

The school system cast a wider net to teaching recruits this year by increasing its Internet presence, Lawton said.

Jobs are posted on the Web site and applications can be downloaded, she said.

Local school systems still have more difficulties recruiting certain teaching positions such as special education, foreign languages and secondary science and math, they said.

Lawton said a program with Hood College in Frederick has helped.

The program allows the school system to recruit someone who is "rich in content" such as a scientist or actuary and have them trained at Hood so they can teach in Frederick County, especially at the secondary level, she said.

Chambersburg Area School District has been actively recruiting, but as of June 8 hadn't hired any of the estimated 40 new teachers needed, said Eric Michael, assistant superintendent for curriculum instruction.

"If you're not done by July, August, it's extremely difficult," Michael said.

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