Nebraska public schools continuing to face staff shortages
BEATRICE – Nebraska school districts ended the year struggling to hire teachers to fill some vacancies…..mainly due to a lack of persons entering the teaching field. A teacher vacancy survey administered by the Nebraska Department of Education showed that in 2022 there were 768 unfilled positions across the state, compared with 482 the year before. The vacancy rate doubled between the two years.
The top two categories where schools struggled to hire teachers in 2022 were in special education and elementary education.
Beatrice Public Schools Superintendent Jason Alexander discussed the situation with the board of education at a committee-level meeting Thursday night.
"The area that's probably been the most challenging is the English teacher position. Essentially, what I'm telling you is there are no candidates available...and we are not the only school facing this situation."
Alexander says a Doane University student teacher will be assisting the district next year. High School Principal Jason Sutter says that will give the high school the equivalent of four-and-a-half English instructor positions, rather than four. Normally, there are five instructors.
Sutter says having the student teacher will allow the school to provide two sections of journalism and one of introduction to theatre….during the first semester. Sutter says the shortage of teachers has been unprecedented.
"I've never seen anything like this. In my twenty years as principal, we've never had just simply no applications for positions. It's real, it's here...and we're doing our best. I think what Jason said is true...we've had to think outside the box, we've had to be creative with a lot of our positions, in how we're doing things. We're going to, knock on wood, continue to offer a lot of opportunities for kids at the high school, which is something we take a lot of pride in. It's just going to be in ways that are maybe different than what we've done in the past."
Alexander feels the district will continue to see shortages of teachers in specific areas. On the upside, Alexander says the district’s preschool is fully staffed. A speech language pathology instructor has moved to an elementary school resource position for the coming year.
Director of Special Education for the district, Beth Cordry-Hookstra said last year, there were nine special education openings, but that improved to only two this year. Some adjustments were also made in special education at the middle school level.
Alexander says two teachers will work as substitutes this year in elementary schools until they are certified by the end of the first semester. At the high school, the district will have a new instructor position in agriculture, starting this next school year.