St. Clair County and Sanilac County School Districts Face Staff Shortage

After seven years as a substitute teacher, Keri Stevens, a teacher at Marysville Middle School, finally has her own classroom.

This school year is Stevens’ first year as a full-time physical education and health teacher. She said she was excited to share her knowledge and work with the children.

“I love the program and working in this district,” Stevens said. “I love the neighborhood, the staff are amazing, the students are amazing, so it was just like a really good place for me, a home for me.”

First-grade teachers such as Stevens are increasingly difficult to find as school districts face a shrinking pool of applicants for teachers.

“Previously we had maybe dozens of applicants for positions and now it’s a handful at best,” said Yale Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Sutton.

Carsonville-Port Sanilac Schools Superintendent Doug Muxlow and Peck Community Schools Superintendent Bill Kerr said the applicant pool is even smaller in rural schools such as their districts than in an urban school. or suburban. Their districts may lack adequate housing options for someone looking to relocate and are far from larger candidate pools in large population centers.

Muxlow said a small or no candidate pool can affect the quality of staff if you don’t think about hiring practices.

“When you don’t have candidates, you don’t have that pressure for the best of the best either. You’re just looking for any candidate as opposed to the best candidate, ”Muxlow said.

Sutton said he doesn’t think a smaller pool of applicants has affected the quality of education for Yale students right now, but it’s very real that the shortage could affect education. children in the future.

“You want to have the best possible staff to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of students and if we are not able to do that there is a risk that there are gaps in the support that children have. need and what we are. able to provide, ”Sutton said. “So far we’ve been successful in making these things work, but it has become increasingly difficult to meet those needs when we don’t have people who are qualified or interested in the job.”

School districts also face a shortage of school support staff, such as babysitters, school bus drivers, substitute teachers and school assistants.

Sutton said Yale is particularly short of school counselors and school bus drivers. After opening a secondary school counselor position for two months, the district split the position into two roles and are now interviewing for the positions.

As for bus drivers, other employees certified as drivers, such as mechanics, maintenance workers or guards, are obliged to replace them when the personnel is lacking. This overloads the work staff.

“If everyone has their own job to do and they are taken out of that job to be replaced in a different department or role just so we can make it work, regardless of their own job description, that job doesn’t is not done, “Sutton said. “So maybe they come back to a heavier workload.”

Why is there a shortage of teachers in Michigan?

David Crim, spokesperson for the Michigan Education Association, said the statewide shortage is caused by a lack of young people entering the profession, deterred by low starting salaries, high student debt and a lack of respect for the role.

Keri Stevens, a teacher at Marysville Middle School, is interviewed in her classroom on Monday August 23, 2021 in Marysville.  Stevens has been a substitute teacher for the district for several years, but this is her first year as a full-time teacher.

Enrollment in Michigan education programs has declined between 50 and 60 percent over the past decade, according to association statistics.

“You are coming out with serious student loan debt and those starting salaries don’t allow them to pay their student loans, their rent, their car, utilities, all of those things,” Crim said. “Unless they live in their parents’ basement, they are struggling to make ends meet financially.”

Michigan is ranked 41st among US states for starting teacher salaries, according to the National Education Association. Crim said this pushes graduates to seek employment in other states with higher starting salaries for teachers.

There has also been a divestment from public education in Michigan, which has an additional deterrent effect on the profession. Crim said teachers in some districts face outdated construction technology and infrastructure.

Crim said the solution to the staff shortage is to increase teachers’ salaries and help them pay off student loans.

How do schools fill their teaching positions?

To help fill the gaps in teaching staff, superintendents in several rural districts have said they allow qualified people to teach while they get their teaching certificates.

Muxlow said his district will employ four teachers next year from Saginaw Valley State University’s accelerated education program.

Teachers first pass a teaching certification test which ensures that the teacher is knowledgeable in their field. They teach for a year while they take courses in the accelerated program to earn their teaching certificate.

Carsonville-Port Sanilac High School

Muxlow said these teachers are paired with a senior teacher to mentor them and an intervention is available for students who need intensive academic help. Two of these teachers are already working for the district, one as a preschool teacher and another as an aide, but have not yet received their teaching certification.

Muxlow said the school ensures students receive a quality education by maintaining small class sizes, which improves student learning when they can receive more individualized attention. The program also allows the school to test these teachers for a year before deciding whether they want to offer them permanent employment.

“We don’t want to just fill positions with bodies. We want good teachers for our children. So sometimes it takes a bit of juggling, ”Muxlow said.

Brown City Superintendent Neil Kohler and Kerr said teachers in their districts often have to teach multiple subjects due to their small size, but it can be difficult to find certified candidates in multiple areas.

Kohler said the district sometimes grants sub-permits to current teachers to teach other subjects while they complete classes to earn their teaching certificate in that subject. Kerr said this was also done for a teacher in his district, but it was not a common practice.

Other superintendents said they attract top talent with competitive salaries.

Read more: See Starting Salaries for Teachers in St. Clair, Sanilac Counties

Officials from the Port Huron School District, Marysville Public Schools and Algonac Community Schools, the three public school districts with the highest salaries in St. Clair and Sanilac counties, said a competitive salary helps attract quality staff. Districts pay a teacher with a bachelor’s degree a starting salary of more than $ 39,000.

“(The high starting salary) made new teachers look to us as their first choice for employment opportunities,” said Kate Peternel, CFO of Port Huron. “In addition, we have staff who would have considered opportunities in other districts for a higher salary, have instead chosen to stay in our district as we are able to compete financially.”

Peternel said passing a requirement in 2016 allowed schools to invest in improved HVAC systems and technologies for teachers and students, such as Chromebooks and laptops, which attracts teachers . Another attraction for the school district is resources that smaller districts might not have, such as instructional coaches and behavior counselors.

Contact Laura Fitzgerald at (810) 941-7072 or [email protected]

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