Finding educators an ongoing problem for Beaufort County School District
School districts across the nation are struggling to fill teaching positions, and the Beaufort County School District is no exception.
“No district in South Carolina is immune to the shortage,” said Alice Walton, Beaufort County School District’s chief administrative and human resources officer. “No district in the country, typically, is immune to the shortage.”
In fact, almost every state has reported a shortage in teachers to the U.S. Education Department, according to an Oct. 18 story in The Washington Post, which cited a recent study published by the nonprofit Learning Policy Institute.
Walton said there just aren’t enough education graduates. Colleges, especially in South Carolina, do not graduate enough teachers every year to fill the vacancies. She said last year there was a deficit of roughly 4,000 teachers from the number of education graduates in the state to the number of teachers needed to place in the state.
Walton said the school district is currently looking for 26 new classroom teachers. She said there are about 1,700 teachers currently working for the district, with roughly 227 who could retire at any moment.
To combat the teacher shortage locally, this year school district appointed former Hilton Head Island Elementary School principal Jill McAden as talent acquisition specialist. In this new role, McAden works to recruit elementary school teachers.
McAden said one of the challenges in bringing in new teachers to Beaufort County is that they often have a difficult time finding housing in the area.
“Relocating is difficult, or it can be difficult,” McAden said. “If you don’t know the area, and you look at a map — and we are a district with lots of water and lots of bridges — it can be very confusing for new folks who can just as easily look at a map and say, ‘Oh, I could live here and get there really fast.’ But as you know, it’s not so fast.”
Walton pointed out that finding housing is even more difficult in Beaufort County because of the high cost of living.
“If I’m a young teacher just out of college and I come to Beaufort, it’s difficult for me to live on $35,000 a year and not work a second or possibly third job,” Walton said. “So that gives us a little bit more of a disadvantage than someone in Columbia or even Charleston.”
Walton wants the community to know that the board of education and school Superintendent Dr. Jeff Moss are looking into the teacher shortage and the problems with the cost of living in the county.
She said the Beaufort County Board of Education is constantly looking at ways to bring Beaufort County teacher salaries up to par with other professions so teachers don’t have to work additional jobs. The board agreed to implement a locality supplement this year that will give teachers an extra $2,000 annually to offset living expenses.
Walton said in addition to hiring McAden to recruit elementary-level teachers, the district will hire one other person to recruit teachers for the middle and high school levels. As of early November, the district had roughly 45 applicants for the new position.
Walton said that as a former elementary principal, McAden understands elementary-level teachers, the certification requirements and what needs to happen at the district level to support teachers. That will be important for the person who will be recruiting for the area’s middle and high schools as well, she said.
“We want to make sure we get a good fit for the job, because it’s a critical position that is going to help us solve some of our shortage problems,” Walton said.
McAden said she is focusing her search on teachers in the Southeast but will also look beyond the region. So far, she has interviewed candidates from Armstrong State University and Fayetteville State University, and was scheduled to interview more at Georgia Southern University at the time of publication.
In order to keep the teachers who come to work in the county, Walton said the district is putting in place a mentoring program. The school district’s human resources department has a team of people who have been trained to support teachers.
“The national research says that teachers leave the profession during the first five years,” Walton said. “What we try to do is bring them in and train them, give them a position of efficacy in terms of feeling effective at what they do so they’re not discouraged and want to remain in the profession.”