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West Virginia school officials say hiring has gone smoothly

August 18, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Eastern Panhandle public school administrators this year again have been confronted with the challenge of hiring enough qualified teachers, but the migration by educators to higher-paying districts in Virginia and Maryland doesn't appear to be as high as in years past.

As of noon Thursday, Berkeley County Schools had hired 133 new teachers, including 25 who were substitutes and nine who were former school district employees, according to the district's human resources department.

Six positions were still unfilled as of Thursday

Assistant Superintendent D. Rick Deuell said last week that finding an instructor for Martinsburg High School's computer-assisted drafting program has been particularly challenging

"We're trying to talk our former teacher to come back for another year," Deuell said. "We're still in the same boat - we can't compete," Deuell added.

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The hiring process for Jefferson County Schools has been relatively smooth, said Dale Shaffer, coordinator of human resources for the school system.

Shaffer said his department had 68 positions to fill and while he could not recall how many he had to fill last year, he said there were a larger number of openings last year at this time.

Shaffer said hiring might have been easier this year due in part to incentives the school system started offering last year.

The incentives include offering teachers about $150 a month for child-care services and tuition reimbursement for continued education, Shaffer said. The school system is able to at least pay for one class for teachers, Shaffer said.

Special education, math and science teachers have been more plentiful this year than in the past, Shaffer said. He attributed that to the current economy, in which more people are looking for jobs or are seeking employment closer to home because of higher gas costs.

Though the personnel situation seems to have improved, Deuell said his assessment could change if some local teachers take positions in Virginia and Maryland districts for the upcoming school year.

So far this year, 48 teaching positions in Berkeley County have been filled by permanent substitutes, which is down from 75 employed for the 2007-08 school year.

Of the 48 assigned for this year, 20 are retirees who have come back to work as substitutes, according to records released by the human resources department that Deuell manages.

Since Jan. 1, 60 teachers have resigned, which is an improvement over the last school year, when 84 stepped down. Another 19 teachers retired, which is up from 17 last year.

Deuell said he was particularly encouraged by the interest of substitute teachers who are taking advantage of a program to become certified.

Deuell said 48 new teaching positions were created at least in part to handle another increase in enrollment, albeit smaller than years past.

Berkeley County Schools Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto said last week that he expects enrollment will exceed 17,000 this year, with a projected increase of about 300 students over last year's total. Actual figures will not be available until mid-September, he said.

Based on registration figures, Aliveto said, "it looks like the kindergarten enrollments are up over the last couple of years. High school enrollments don't look like they are going to be as large of an increase."

Staff Writer Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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