ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — While all area school districts are back in school, all of them still have job openings to fill.

As of Monday, Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS) has 66 openings, East Allen County Schools (EACS) has four, Southwest Allen County Schools has more than 60, and Northwest Allen County Schools (NACS) has more than 70 full and part-time positions available. 

WANE 15 spoke with the superintendents of all four districts in Allen County about how staffing is coming along at the start of the new school year. All of them said they could use more staffing in one area or another. 

The biggest area of concern is the need for more bus drivers. This was an issue last school year as well. 

District officials with FWCS, SACS, and EACS said they’ve condensed routes, and those with FWCS and SACS have even changed school times to help, but are still short on bus drivers. 

NACS officials said they are in pretty good shape with full-time bus drivers but could use more substitute bus drivers. 

“Having less routes and the need for less drivers should help us cover those needs better,” Ginder said. “We have a lot of mid-day routing that still needs to be taken care of and special routes. Having a smaller number of individuals, it’ll actually help us do more throughout the day because we’re going to be able to stagger things differently than we ever have.” 

Another area that needs to be filled is teacher positions. 

FWCS, SACS, and EACS officials all said they specifically need more instructional assistants or paraprofessional educators. Paraprofessionals support the primary teacher in a classroom by helping students understand the lesson taught by the teacher. 

Mark Daniel, superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools, said districts need to start thinking outside the box to draw more teachers in. 

“Why are we not in Florida right now? There’s a lot of unrest with teachers in Florida, why aren’t we knocking on Florida’s doors and saying hey, Fort Wayne Community Schools first of all it’s a great community. Look what’s happening in our community in the growth, look what’s happening downtown look at the programs being offered. Other districts are also very excellent districts. So how do we sell Fort Wayne and bring new people to us instead of sort of just passing staff between us?” Daniel said. 

Katie Jenner with the Indiana Department of Education recalls a strategy she used earlier in her career to find more teachers with the required skill sets.

“We have an art gallery right on Main Street in downtown Madison. And the artist was very known. But one day we had a conversation about would you ever consider keeping your art gallery open but also teaching and applying your knowledge sharing it with kids?” Jenner said.  

The Indiana Department of Education has a new tool that shows the supply and demand of educators across the state. The goal is to help school districts while giving those looking to work in the school system an easier way of seeing what’s available. 

“What this does for the marketplace is it connects candidates who want to be teachers with the demand for the positions,” Jenner said. “We’ve seen us take some districts who have had very few applicants see a significant increase in their applicant pool just because a person says hey, I’m interested in teaching English within 10 miles of my house and all of these other opportunities open up.” 

Indiana also offers a program where anyone with a bachelor’s degree can get free training and certification paid for by the state. Indiana will also work directly with the district to help individuals immediately fill a position while completing the program. 

“It’s almost like an apprenticeship of sorts, right? They’re doing their learning while also serving that local school and an area of need,” Jenner said. 

Jenner offered advice to district officials wanting to recruit more employees who would be going through these programs. She suggests pairing new teachers with teachers that have been in the field for a while so they have guidance and aren’t alone.