With some metro school districts reporting significant problems finding teachers for the fast approaching school year, Eden Prairie Schools is in a much better position, according to the district’s director of human resources.
Teacher shortages were an issue before the pandemic hit in early 2020, especially for substitute teachers and in some subjects.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are more than half a million fewer teachers in US schools than before the pandemic. Eden Prairie did not feel this pressure.
“We haven’t been impacted as significantly by the staffing shortages you may hear about on the national news,” said Tom May, the district’s executive director of human resources.
Indeed, finding employees to support these teachers has become the biggest challenge.
Most of the openings at Eden Prairie are currently for support positions across the district, including nurses, bus drivers and, most importantly, paraprofessionals, May said.
21 open teaching positions…
As of Aug. 23, of the 126 open positions listed on the district’s careers page, 21 (or 16.7%) are for licensed teachers. These lists cover many areas, including music, physical education, language arts, social studies, art, sign language, and others. No list was specific to math or science.
“Our pools of applicants are not as deep as they were five years ago,” May said. “but we are always able to find really highly qualified educators…who come here with experience and a passion for Eden Prairie.”
The district is working to fill three other areas: bus drivers (10), catering workers (10) and paraprofessionals.
… and 49 para positions
The largest number of district-wide openings are for paraprofessionals, who work at all levels and support teachers in multiple ways.
A total of 49 paraprofessional positions – or 39% of available jobs – remain open at Eden Prairie, including 27 in special education.
Special Education Paras must have a two-year or higher degree, 60 credits toward a degree, or pass a ParaPro assessment. Pay starts at around $20 an hour for most special education paras.
Kindergarten and Dining Paras start at $17.64 per hour and only require a high school diploma or equivalent. Salary scales can differ depending on the position, as can the workdays which vary between 3 and 6.5 hours.
Eden Prairie is not alone. The surrounding neighborhoods are experiencing similar problems.
Minnetonka is looking to hire 31 teachers and 33 paraprofessionals. Edina needs 18 teachers and 25 paraprofessionals. Eastern Carver County Schools covering Chanhassen and Chaska are looking for six teachers and 25 paraprofessionals.
May says the market for bus drivers, catering workers and paraprofessionals is different than many jobs in the district.
The problem is that there aren’t many people looking for those specific types of jobs, May said.
“It’s likely that the people (interested in these jobs) don’t need to work or would be interested in helping the district,” he said.
He thinks the jobs might look more tempting when potential candidates learn more about them.
“These are great positions with great benefits, paid time off, paid sick time, pension plan, no nights, no weekends, only working school days,” a- he declared.
But for now, the district has to deal with what happens on September 6 – the first day of school.
“We have plans in place to cover these positions for day one,” May said. “We have other staff who help us drive school buses. We are able to restructure and reassign our catering staff to meet venue needs.
Staffing open paraprofessional positions — particularly in special education — will be a challenge, he acknowledged.
“We’re going to have to have a lot of conversations (about this),” he said.
125 new teachers
There are about 650 licensed teachers in the Eden Prairie School District, May said. The district has already hired 125 new teachers for the 2022-23 school year.
Demographically, new recruits and returning teachers are evenly distributed in terms of age and experience.
While May didn’t have exact numbers, he divided the district’s teaching staff into thirds.
“About a third of our staff are teachers over the age of 20 (at Eden Prairie),” he said. “Another third is between 10 and 20 (years old), and another third is under 10 years old. I think that mix is probably still being played out (with new recruits). “
Eden Prairie is able to hire teachers with experience in certain areas, which maintains about the same ratio of less experienced to highly experienced, he said.
About 40 teachers have offered the district early retirement incentives in the 2022 school year, May said. That’s more than the 20 or so retirements in a typical year, he said. Whether the pandemic had anything to do with it, “I don’t know the answer,” he said.
There were no program cuts or eliminations, or budget-related cuts, he said.
Over the past five years, the district has hired between 70 and 80 new teachers each year. “We’ve hired 125…and, yeah, that’s an increase,” May said. “But we are used to hiring a lot of teachers. We are a large system and we see some turnover here. It’s part of the business.
Employer of choice
Historically, filling teaching positions at Eden Prairie has not been a problem.
“Eden Prairie is a school district that educators aspire to be in,” May said. “We are an employer of choice for many candidates.”
He attributed the support given to incoming teachers as part of the positive reputation the district enjoys. “The support new teachers receive from our veteran teacher mentors may be unique (compared to) other systems,” he said.
He also pointed out that strong professional development and good relations between administration and teachers contribute to staff retention.
“The district is also at the top of the total compensation rankings in Metro West,” May said. “So that could make a difference.”
May is unsure of the exact number of applications the district receives each year. “With our elementary positions, it’s not uncommon for us to have a few hundred applications for a position,” he said. Special education positions receive fewer applications, he added.
Ready for 2022-23
Although he faces some challenges heading into the new school year, May is confident the district is ready,
“I think it’s important for people to know that although we are seeing an increase in positions at this time of year,” May said, “we are still in position and very prepared for the start of the school year. .”
Meanwhile, May said the district will also use direct marketing to the community through social media, postcards and letters to help find people to fill positions.
The district will host a hiring event for bus drivers, food service workers and paraprofessionals on Monday, August 29, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and again from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Both will be at the Administrative Services Center. , 8100 school road.
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