2017-01-20 / Local News

School district offering bonuses to entice teachers to work here

By SCOTT POWELL
Ledger Staff Writer

New math and science teachers are being offered a $10,000 signing bonus to teach in Cherokee County schools as a way to recruit new teachers in difficult-to-fill subject areas.

The bonuses will be paid to fully certified teachers who sign a 2-year contract in critical needs areas such as foreign language, secondary school math and science, school psychologist and all special education teacher areas.

The incentives are funded with $346,000 in one-time state money Cherokee County received from a state budget proviso to boost teacher recruitment efforts in 48 districts with high poverty rates.

Locally, four high school math and science teacher vacancies were featured in job openings posted on the district’s human resources website this week.

“We face the same problem every other district faces with math and science teachers,” said Cherokee County School Board Chairman J.J. Sarratt. “I mean, you can’t keep them. It’s (bonuses) a way we’re trying to get some good teachers to work in our district.”

Amid a worsening teacher shortage, school districts statewide have been forced to cast a wider net to find new teachers.

Nearly 6,500 teachers did not return to their teaching positions in South Carolina schools for the 2016-2017 school year, according to a teacher demand survey released Jan. 13 by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA).

Two-thirds of teacher departures were attributed to personal choice, taking a teaching position in another South Carolina district or out-of-state, and retirement, according to the CERRA study. About 38 percent of this year’s vacancies involved teachers who left within their first five years in the classroom.

CERRA found there were more than 481 open teaching positions in South Carolina when the current school year started last August. Only 25 percent of newly hired teachers for this school year were graduates from a traditional teacher certification program in the state.

South Carolina colleges and universities are only producing 2,000 teacher graduates per year. Alternative certification programs, such as American Board, provide a path for adults who do not have the time nor money to go back to a traditional university to become a teacher. American Board helps adults with a bachelor’s degree earn their teaching certification without going back to school or going into debt.

Lisa Howell, executive director of American Board, has seen the struggle in the classroom firsthand. Prior to leading the nonprofit, she was a history teacher and witnessed how difficult it can be to recruit and retain teaching talent.

“Current teacher recruitment policies are completely inadequate to address the massive teacher shortage we are seeing everywhere,” Howell said. “We need to allow more flexible options for teacher training so we can get qualified, passionate individuals in the classroom and educating our kids.”

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