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Berkeley County Schools planning to hire 130 new teachers

August 08, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County Schools is projecting it will hire about 130 new teachers, but substantially fewer long-term substitutes, for the coming school year, school officials said this week.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Berkeley County administrators had placed 119 teachers, Assistant Superintendent Kim Hough said.

The school district is projecting to a hire a maximum of 24 long-term, or “permanent,” substitute teachers, which would be a 50 percent reduction from last year’s tally, Hough said. Teachers are hired as “permanent” substitutes when officials are unable to recruit an instructor who is certified to teach in a particular area needed.

When looking to hire a permanent substitute, the school district seeks people who have professional backgrounds in the subject matter and have teaching experience, Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon said Wednesday.

While the school district hired a number of school counselors this year, the county’s primary need is for special education, math, science, English and foreign language teachers, Hough said.

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According to Arvon, the school district this year could see a 150-student increase in enrollment, which grew by more than 280 students last year to reach 18,002.

The first day of school for Berkeley County students is Aug. 20.

Armed with new recruitment materials, Hough said the school district this year participated in 15 teacher recruiting events, including job fairs in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Pennsylvania produces more teachers than school districts there can employ, and there are not enough local candidates, Hough said.

“We really think we have a quality group of new teachers,” Hough said.

Rather than give out “trinkets” bearing the school district’s name that are typical at recruitment fairs, Hough said the school district had prospective job candidates enter a contest to win an iPad instead at one particularly large event. The tactical change saved the school district money, Hough said.

Based on four years of hiring data, the school district focused its recruiting efforts on West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia andWashington, D.C., Hough said.

Past recruiting efforts included some outside the region, but Hough said the data indicated most new teachers who ultimately were hired have lived closer to Berkeley County. The school district’s targeted recruitment area this year amounted to areas within a 3 1/2-hour drive from the county, Hough said.

At the recruiting events, Berkeley County teachers who are early in their careers were paired with administrators, Hough said. The first-ever pairing for the school district gave candidates the opportunity to ask the teachers different types of questions, Hough said.

In April and June, 60 job candidates took part in the school district’s first teacher recruitment days, Hough said. Candidates were invited to the daylong series of activities, which included school facility tours, and about 75 percent of those who attended were hired, Hough said.

A “speed matching” event also was held for elementary-school teaching candidates, Hough said.

Administratively, Hough said the school district also restructured its human resources department, which now has two coordinators who specialize in elementary and secondary staffing.

Dale Shaffer, human resources coordinator for Jefferson County Schools, said Wednesday that the school district had hired little more than a dozen new teachers so far for the current year.

Shaffer said school districts in neighboring states have been “downsizing” staffs, which has helped them recruit some “really good folks.” 

Shaffer said the school district has recruited locally to essentially replace existing positions, which was different from years past. Much of Jefferson County Schools’ staffing needs are for special education and at the secondary level, Shaffer said.

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