It’s recruiting season for newly minted certified teachers, and the Lafayette Parish School System human resource staff has started visits to colleges this week to try to find special education, math and science teachers.
“We’re looking for people in high-demand areas,” said Bruce Leininger, human resources director. “People with a special education background, which are few and far between, as well as math and science teachers. That doesn’t mean that we’ll be successful because virtually everyone is looking for the same people.”
While spring is prime time to recruit new teachers as they prepare for graduation dates in May, Leininger said it’s unclear at this point how many job openings the school system has to fill. Those decisions will depend on several factors — the number of teachers leaving the system, but also whether the School Board plans to alter current classroom teacher staffing ratios.
Interim superintendent Burnell LeJeune and his staff have recommended that the board increase class size by one additional student at each grade level to produce nearly $5 million in savings in the 2015-16 school year. The classroom size increase will help whittle down an estimated $15 million shortfall in next year’s budget, but also reduce classroom teacher slots by 70.
However, the board’s finance committee rejected the recommendation and voted 2-1 to delay any staffing changes until it reviews its general fund — which won’t happen until May. The current staffing ratios are: 23 students in kindergarten through third grade, 25 students in fourth grade and 28 in grades five through 12.
During the same finance committee meeting earlier this month, assistant human resources director Suzanne Thibodeaux advised board members that hiring for open positions ideally needs to happen before the end of the school year because other school districts will be recruiting, as well.
“There is a shortage of teachers; if we wait until the summer, other school districts have already hired,” Thibodeaux told the finance committee.
Other board decisions could set off a game of musical chairs among certified teachers who hold positions that have been recommended for elimination or staffing reductions to help offset the budget shortfall.
Those teachers would be considered displaced and the goal would be to identify vacant positions for them to fill among those jobs open through resignations or retirements, Leininger said at the finance committee meeting held earlier this month. He has said that at least 90 teachers have either resigned or retired and that number is expected to increase by the end of the school year.
Leininger said Tuesday that although the board hasn’t made any staffing decisions yet, his staff is trying to be ready with a list of candidates interested in working in Lafayette. This week, Thibodeaux is recruiting in northern and central Louisiana at Northwestern, University of Louisiana at Monroe and Louisiana Tech, while Leininger is in Mississippi at Alcorn State University and Jackson State University.
“We’re out being prepared to make sure that we’re able to get qualified people in the classrooms, pending what decisions get made by the board,” Leininger said.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.