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August 06, 2005|By KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

With just three weeks to go before classes resume, hiring new math and special education teachers tops some administrators' back-to-school lists.

"People are waiting 'til the last minute, 'til they get their contracts from other school districts, people are saying, 'Do I really want to do this?'" said Lin Nugent, human resources coordinator for Jefferson County (W.Va.) Schools.

The school system there would like people to say yes - about 40 teaching positions remain unfilled, Nugent said. Classes start Aug. 29.

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All but 14 of Washington County Public Schools' vacancies have been filled, according to Ellen Hayes, the school system's supervisor of human resources and teacher staffing.

Hayes, who is charged with making sure positions are filled, has been busy this week.

"I have about 20 different moves, be it retirements, resignations, new hires, that have crossed my desk this week," Hayes said.

School begins in Washington County on Aug. 24. The school system's New Teacher Academy began Monday and continues through next week, Hayes said.

Hayes said the hardest positions to fill have been math; about two to four vacancies remain in that area, she said.

The Washington County Board of Education's decision to hire 10 foreign teachers through the Visiting International Faculty Program has reduced the need in some hard-to-fill areas, Hayes said.

According to its Web site, most of the teaching vacancies in Berkeley County (W.Va.) Schools are for special education. Spokesperson Jaimee Borger said the Berkeley County school system, which opens for classes Aug. 26, had 49 teacher vacancies to fill.

Tuscarora (Pa.) School District Superintendent Thomas Stapleford said the Mercersburg, Pa., district can take some credit for teacher recruitment problems in Maryland and West Virginia.

Stapleford cited a 10-year teacher from Frederick County, Md., as an example.

"She has crackerjack experience and is extremely well-qualified, but she said she is willing to leave Frederick to come here," he said.

Stapleford said the school district needs to fill 10 to 12 positions before school begins there on Aug. 29, but he expects no problem doing so, despite the fact that teachers in the district have not had a work contract since June 2004.

Also in Pennsylvania, Greencastle-Antrim School District Schools Superintendent P. Duff Rearick, Waynesboro Area School District Superintendent Barry Dallara, who spoke through secretary Bobbi Trostle, and Chambersburg Area School District Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said they have had little difficulty filling vacancies. School begins for students Aug. 29 in all three districts.

"It's a nice place to work and we start our teachers at nearly $40,000 a year," Rearick said of the Greencastle-Antrim School District. "Our pay is significantly higher than districts around us."

Nugent said the Jefferson County school system, which had openings for music, math and special education teachers, has had problems competing with some of its neighbors.

Nugent said the school system has lost current and prospective teachers to Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, which has a starting salary of $42,000 - $14,000 more than Jefferson County.

Loudoun County also is offering a free ride to work, Nugent said. Loudoun County is providing air-conditioned transportation back and forth to work for its teachers, she said. She said she didn't know how long the commuter service would be offered.

"It is a quality-of-life issue, it takes an hour and a half to get to Loudoun County, and the price of gas is astronomical," Nugent said. "So they'll try it, and they'll come back. They will come back."

Reporters Don Aines and Richard Belisle contributed to this story.

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