El Dorado schools dealing with teacher shortage

Chad Frey
Butler County Times Gazette
El Dorado schools have been dealing with a shortage of teachers.

At this time it feels like everywhere you look, there is a shortage of workers. Restaurants closed because there are not enough people to work them, shipping backlogs because there are not enough truck drivers to make deliveries.

And, across the state of Kansas, classrooms still waiting for a teacher to come teach as the calendar moves towards Halloween.

In El Dorado, there is a definite shortage of teaching staff, but the shortage of help runs deeper than teachers — according to superintendent Teresa Tosh. 

"We do have a shortage beyond just the walls of the classroom. We have roughly twelve positions open right now between all of our departments," Tosh told the Times-Gazette.

The district currently employs 132 teachers.

In response to the open positions, Central Office staff has filled in as substitutes. More full-time subs have been hired to float through buildings, and the district has gotten "creative" in finding ways to keep classrooms on task and learning.

"We have hired additional full-time substitutes who can flex among classrooms," Tosh said. "We have also added sign-on and referral bonuses for some of our harder-to-fill positions. We have also increased our daily sub rate of pay to encourage more people to sub in our district."

The Kansas National Education Association, Kansas Association of School Boards and United School Administrators Kansas claim the worker shortage is touching every area of school districts — going well beyond the classroom. In a joint statement those groups claim Kansas is facing what is predicted to be a growing critical shortage of highly qualified professional educators including administrators, paraprofessionals, classified staff, and teachers.

The Kansas National Education Association, Kansas Association of School Boards and United School Administrators Kansas are launching a research project to try and make heads and tails of the shortage. That project starts with talking to educational professionals this fall and winter.

"Educator shortages are reaching severe levels. USA, KNEA, and KASB have a vested interest in retaining our great teachers. We are pleased to work with The Teacher’s College and Assistant Professor Church on this important research project." said John Heim, Executive Director of Kansas Association of School Boards.

In El Dorado, classes still go on — administration and school staff do not want to let students go without.

"Not offering classes is always a consideration, but we are aware that students miss out in those situations.  We do our best to be creative so students aren't put in that situation," Tosh said. "We have paras and building aides who have gotten their emergency sub licenses so they can help out when needed as well."

Teachers are asked to help fill in for absent teachers, putting a dent in their personal and planning times as the cover for others. 

"Shortages always put an additional strain on current staff," .   

Dr. Bret Church, an Associate Professor at Emporia State University, will lead a coalition effort to gather and analyze data from a statewide survey of educators. Educators and staff from every district in the state have been invited to participate in the survey as it is  focuses on five key data sets: retention factor ratings, retention factor prioritization rankings, most and least rewarding aspects of teaching, teacher engagement, and the likelihood of retention.

From this research, the coalition expects to generate actionable plans and recommendations to address the growing shortages within the education workforce in Kansas.

“The time is now, we can no longer wait and expect this staffing shortage to fix itself. As Kansas educators, it's time to come together to develop a solution for this shortage. This survey is a critical first step,” said G.A. Buie, Executive Director of USA Kansas.

Morning Fred. I have another story I'd like to tackle and would like your input on.

First, give me a sense of this issue for Newton USD 373 — do you have a shortage?  How many open positions do you have?

How many teachers does the district currently employ?

When a position is open, what does that mean for the school - teachers giving up plan hours, classes not being offered, ect.

What has USD373 done to try and solve the issue of shortages?

KNEA & KASB have announced researching this at a statewide level. How is this helpful?



“We believe that making public schools great for every Kansas student begins with doingall we can to ensure that dedicated, diverse, and highly qualified educators lead everyclassroom.”-Sherri Schwanz, President of Kansas NEA