ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – Teacher shortages have been plaguing school districts across the country for years. As part of our 15 Days of Back to School coverage, WANE 15 checked in with the four big districts in our area – Fort Wayne Community Schools, Southwest Allen County Schools, Northwest Allen County Schools, and East Allen County Schools – to get a better idea about how the issue is affecting them, if at all. WANE 15 learned that a majority of the openings across all districts are for special education jobs, and the reason for many openings is largely due to late resignations.

FORT WAYNE COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

Fort Wayne Community Schools is the largest district in our area and one of the largest in the state. It’s no surprise that FWCS is reporting the largest number of openings in the area.

The district currently has 62 openings. About half of those positions are in special education, which is a historically harder position to fill, according to Sandra Vohs who leads the Fort Wayne Education Association. She says it’s likely people are being processed for some of those jobs meaning they could be filled soon, but there is a host of instructional assistant jobs open throughout the district as well.

Vohs says the number of openings in FWCS this year is comparable to last year, and while they are short, the district is in better shape than others in the state.

A number of things can be attributed to the teacher shortage, according to Vohs: fewer people are entering profession, more teachers are leaving jobs, and the pandemic was hard on teachers who often found themselves on the frontlines.

She says when it comes to hiring, the district will always look for people with 4-year college degrees who’ve completed their student teaching, but leaders are now also putting a big focus on people who may be considering teaching as a second career.

“The state and school districts are taking advantage of some of the different opportunities for alternative paths to licensure. There’s programs in Fort Wayne that can help with things like tuition, they can help you navigate the transition into teaching process,” said Vohs. “You still have to have the license and there are still hoops to jump through, but we’re just trying to find ways to attract more people, maybe second career people, who had maybe thought about it years ago and are revisiting it right now.”

The district will continue to hire throughout the year. Vohs encourages qualified teachers to apply, or anyone interested in a teaching career to explore the licensure process.

You can visit the FWCS online job board to see open position within the district. The Indiana Department of Education also has more information about the Transition to Teaching programs available in Indiana.

SOUTHWEST ALLEN COUNTY SCHOOLS

Southwest Allen County Schools was in the best position out of the four districts with only one opening to fill a week before the school year started. The position was for an intense interventionist at Homestead High School, and as of August 15 that position had not been filled.

Human Resources Director LuAnn Erickson says the school will utilize instructional assistants and student teachers so the students in that class are effectively served.

Erickson says the district isn’t getting the number of applicants that it used to, so they’ve been getting creative to help fill open positions in the district, which was up to 12 at one point. One thing they did was offer referral bonuses to current teachers and staff. They also used social media and networking to attract teachers.

Like other districts, the teacher shortage in the district was likely due to COVID burnout and late resignations.

Erickson says the district plans for the event that it is short teachers. For example, teachers could share workloads, and college interns could supplement teachers in the classroom and even go on to get full-time jobs in the district upon graduation.

To help combat teacher shortages in the future, the district is hoping to change the message about the teaching profession.

“There’s so much positivity there, and we want to get back to having that excitement about why it’s important to be a teacher and why it’s so rewarding, so we’re trying to make that shift internally to make it more of a positive, because it truly is, it’s a very rewarding career and we’re hoping that people see that say ‘hey that’s what I want to do,’” Erickson said.

You can find more information about Southwest Allen County Schools employment opportunities HERE.

NORTHWEST ALLEN COUNTY SCHOOLS

Northwest Allen County Schools went into the new year with a small handful of openings in the district. Sam DiPrimio, the Director of Human Resources for NACS, says he feels the district is in a good spot.

DiPrimio says the openings are due to late resignations within the district, which he described as “typical.”

Currently, there are openings for a special education position and a long-term sub for special education at the elementary level, one special education position at the high school level, and a health position at the middle school level. There are still many instructional assistant openings at all levels, too.

When it comes to hiring, DiPrimio says they’ll start with the existing pool of applicants, but he’s noticed a concerning trend in that area.

“We’ve seen as we go to job fairs every Spring and start talking to future graduates, the number of districts that are at those fairs is growing, and the number of students available to be interviewed in shrinking, and that’s been a trend I would say over the last 4 to 5 years,” he said.

The district works hard to market itself and the teaching profession, DiPrimio says, to help grow the number of applicants.

“You can get an emergency permit, there’s Transition to Teaching programs available, so there’s ways for us to bring teachers on board as they work through their licensing process,” said DiPrimio.

Like other districts, NACS plans for potential shortages. Schools may use long-term subs if they’re needed, or in some cases, they’ll make class sizes larger. Parents and students will always be made aware of these changes.

You can learn more about open jobs within the NACS district HERE.

EAST ALLEN COUNTY SCHOOLS

East Allen County Schools is short two teachers as of August 15. The two openings are for math teachers, according to EACS spokeswoman Tamyra Kelly.

At one point over the summer, the district had 12 openings to fill in elementary, fine arts, and special education. Kelly told WANE 15 the reason for the shortage in the district was due to late resignations.

“The district will combat shortages by looking into Transition to Teaching programs with local universities,” said Kelly in an email to WANE 15 News.

You can learn more about employment opportunities HERE.

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