These Bay Area school districts are rushing to hire teachers before the first day of school

Competition for qualified teachers in the Bay Area is fierce as districts compete for a limited pool of applicants and hope they will have enough educators to fill every classroom by the first day of school.

In San Francisco, district officials said while the total number of teaching positions was lower this year than last year, they still had 120 openings out of about 2,500 teaching positions a week and a half before. on August 17, when nearly 50,000 students would file through the doors.

Last school year, the district opened those doors with 40 teaching vacancies, requiring administrators or long-term replacements to welcome students on the first day.

“We are doing everything we can to alert San Franciscans and Bay Area residents who have always wanted to work in education that we need you now,” said Kristin Bijur, human resources manager for the district, sharing his Uncle Sam pitch with anyone. potential job seeker. “If you want the world to be a better place and you quit another job, we want you here, now. Make a difference in the lives of young people. »

Vice-principal John Lee installs a new projector while academic mentor Jeremy Blower fixes a fan and first-grade teacher Megan Blower works on her desk at Lincoln Elementary School in Oakland.

Constanza Hevia H./Special at The Chronicle

Despite creative social media campaigns, signing bonuses and other incentives, few if any local districts will start the school year with full staff, a problem they have faced to a greater or lesser degree. less significant each fall in recent years.

The local hiring crisis comes as California and the country grapple with a teacher shortage exacerbated by the pandemic, which has led to increased quits and retirements among education personnel.

Additionally, many districts have had to hire more teachers given the expansion of transitional kindergarten as well as the influx of a bloated state budget that is pumping an additional $8 billion into public schools, pushing annual education spending past $110 billion and sending districts to hiring. .

The impact of central office replacement educators or long-term replacements can be devastating for students, who are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, with critical time for learning and relationship building. lost until a permanent teacher is hired. And vacancies have often clustered in schools with a disproportionate number of disadvantaged students, leaving them even further behind their peers.

Oakland schools are reopening Monday, but the district still had 40 to 50 educator openings Thursday for the upcoming school year.

“We continue to receive one-time funding from the state and federal government related to pandemic relief, and the influx of new funding is creating more positions across the district – some for current staff and other positions we need to find candidates for,” district spokesman John Sasaki said. “We do large-scale internet marketing across multiple platforms, one-on-one advice, and follow up with community members who have shown interest.”

Amanda Collins, a teacher and librarian, takes a pay cut to transfer from the Palo Alto school district to San Francisco to fill a teacher shortage and be closer to her daughter Isla.

Amanda Collins, a teacher and librarian, takes a pay cut to transfer from the Palo Alto school district to San Francisco to fill a teacher shortage and be closer to her daughter Isla.

Don Feria / Special at La Chronique

State policymakers have stepped up efforts to recruit and retain teachers, and the number of new educators entering the workforce has increased, even during the pandemic.

In 2021, California issued 19,666 teaching credentials, up from 16,500 four years earlier, according to the state Commission on Teacher Certification.

Yet back in San Francisco, Bijur was realistic about the slim chance of filling every classroom with a qualified teacher on the first day of school.

“I’m not going to pretend that we’re going to magically produce 137 highly qualified graduate teachers in the next three weeks,” she said, adding that administrators were meeting with principals to consider options, including merging halls. of class to eliminate openings.

San Francisco faces higher odds than many other communities. A payroll debacle has left teachers without paychecks in recent months, the latest headache for a district plagued by controversy, scandal, lawsuits and the school board’s successful recall, and the cost of living high discourages some recruits.

For veteran teacher librarian Amanda Collins, it was not an easy decision to leave her teaching job in Palo Alto to take a job in San Francisco where she lives, despite the expensive and long daily train ride to the Peninsula town, where schools are well funded by the wealthy community.

Third-grade teacher Claudia Hung-Haas shows off the book she will read on the first day of class at Lincoln Elementary School in Oakland.  Many school districts in the Bay Area have teaching positions to fill before schools open.

Third-grade teacher Claudia Hung-Haas shows off the book she will read on the first day of class at Lincoln Elementary School in Oakland. Many school districts in the Bay Area have teaching positions to fill before schools open.

Constanza Hevia H./Special at The Chronicle

But with her daughter starting kindergarten, she wanted to be closer to home and maybe work where her child attends school.

And, she admitted, her town’s school district really needed her. So she took a job at Rooftop K-8 and a $40,000 annual pay cut.

“That was my biggest deterrent. I wanted to work in San Francisco,” she said. “The benefits of working where you live are immeasurable, seeing students outside of school, d be a bigger part of their lives.

“I had to weigh that against a lot of money.”

The pay cut was partly due to union rules that limit the number of years of experience that can be transferred from one district to another, a contractual limitation that reduced Collins’ seniority from 18 years to 11 and his pay accordingly.

It’s a common labor agreement that discourages transfers, especially to districts that can’t compete with the kind of wages cities like Palo Alto pay.

Ben Wu and his daughters Mindy (left) and Michelle receive backpacks from Nhan Nguyen, general manager of Office Depot, at Lincoln Elementary School in Oakland.

Ben Wu and his daughters Mindy (left) and Michelle receive backpacks from Nhan Nguyen, general manager of Office Depot, at Lincoln Elementary School in Oakland.

Constanza Hevia H./Special at The Chronicle

The average starting salary for a teacher is around $50,000 per year, although this varies widely from district to district, as do the benefits offered. Palo Alto’s lowest starting salary was $71,000 last year, with the most experienced and educated hitting $144,000, not including benefits.

San Francisco, like many other urban neighborhoods, knows this. The district’s starting salary is $60,000, with bonuses available for those working in hard-to-fill areas.

So Bijur and others in his position across the Bay Area hope to attract district parents, college graduates and those with deep roots in their towns to become teachers.

They don’t even need to have a degree.

Bijur is advertising around town that a college degree with the right kind of coursework on a transcript can put someone in a classroom this fall under an emergency heading. The district will then help the budding teacher obtain the education and training necessary to become a full-fledged educator.

“We can’t keep up with everyone financially given our cost of living,” she said. “We won’t win the game on that one.”

Lincoln Elementary School staff member Chong Wang unpacks rapid COVID-19 tests to give to students and parents in Oakland.

Lincoln Elementary School staff member Chong Wang unpacks rapid COVID-19 tests to give to students and parents in Oakland.

Constanza Hevia H./Special at The Chronicle

In Mount Diablo Unified, HR chief John Rubio fights the same tough hiring battle.

Although the district cannot pay salaries as high as some neighboring districts, it offers up to $10,000 in signing bonuses spread over two years for teachers with desired credentials, including those in special education. About 20 newly hired teachers will receive the extra money.

“I really believe the hiring bonuses have had a significant impact on getting people to take a hard look at our district,” Rubio said.

The Contra Costa County District also hosts weekly job fairs for all positions, while advertising on movie screens and paying to promote recruiting videos on Facebook.

Still, with students returning in less than a week, the district has filled all elementary school positions but needs about 15 to 20 additional high school teachers out of about 1,450 total educators.

Typically, there are about 50 to 60 openings to fill each fall, but that number has increased to about 120 this year.

“I believe people are rethinking the way they spend their time and their lives,” he said. “We really think things could be a lot worse for us right now.”

Jill Tucker is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @jilltucker

Comments are closed.