Maine schools face staffing shortages as classes starts up this week
Educational leaders are thinking outside the box to fill vacancies
Maine (WABI) - School starts up this week for most schools around the state.
For many districts, the school year will kick off with vacancies in staffing.
Joy Hollowell tells us what school principals are doing to prepare.
“It’s definitely an epidemic, and it’s been coming. And, it seems to just keep getting worse.”
Holly Blair is the Executive Director – Professional Division of the Maine Principals’ Association. She says staffing shortages at schools in Maine is nothing new.
“This is something we’ve been dealing with for, shoot, decades now,” says Blair.
But, like so many other professions in Maine and across the nation, the pandemic accelerated those numbers.
“It’s everything, every single role,” says Mary Nadeau, president of the Maine Principals’ Association. “Teachers, Ed techs, office staff, kitchen staff, bus drivers, counselors. You name it and there can be a challenge with anything and everything.”
Mary Nadeau has been a Maine educator for 36 years, the past 15 as principal of Nokomis Regional High School. Students start classes on Wednesday, and she’s happy to report Nokomis high will be fully staffed.
“Our last educational technician position was filled at the end of last week,” says Nadeau, acknowledging how close it is to the start of the school year.
Both Nadeau and Blair says salaries are a major stumbling block. The current starting salary for K-12 teachers in Maine is $40,000. A bill to raise that minimum to $50,000 was carried over to the next legislative session due to a lack of funding.
“It’s really hard to talk somebody into going into teaching, getting that four year plus degree and starting off in a very low salary,” says Blair. When they could go and just get a job somewhere else and make double the money.”
Other obstacles include the increasing demands on staff both inside and outside the classroom.
“It’s a challenge,” says Nadeau. “I know I spent a good portion of the summer reaching out to colleges - Hey, we’ve got an opening in this area, do you know anybody? Or we shift gears, maybe we had an opening that we couldn’t fill, but could we maybe go in a different direction with that position to find a qualified person.”
The Maine Department of Education granted emergency certification to help fill the gaps. Maine principals are also thinking outside the box- reaching out to newly retired teachers to see if they’d want to come back even on a temporary basis. Or those looking to change careers or coming from out of state.
And ready or not -.
“No matter what, they kids are coming,” says Blair, smiling. “And the educators - they’re going to do the best job they possibly can because that’s why they’re there.”
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