BAKER — The Baker School Board Tuesday night unanimously approved agreements with Southern University, Louisiana Resource Center for Educators Teach, and iteachLouisiana designed to recruit and certify more qualified teachers for the district.

Superintendent Herman Brister said Baker doesn't have an unusual shortage of qualified teachers, but teacher recruitment is a problem throughout the country, especially in the areas of special education, mathematics, science, English language arts, and social studies, which are the specialties Baker needs.

“We need a stable workforce that is highly skilled and these agreements give us a chance to grow our own teachers,” Brister said.

He expressed hope the programs, all of which begin in fall, would also streamline the process of certifying Baker teachers in the areas in which they are teaching.

According to statistics LRCE Teach provided to the district, 51 percent of teachers in Baker schools are teaching outside of their areas of certification.

The memorandum of understanding with LRCE Teach is designed to help more of those teachers achieve certification in the areas in which they are teaching.

LRCE Teach will also work with Baker Schools to recruit teachers to work in the system and, in turn, the district will support the teacher candidates and provide them with mentor teachers within Baker schools.

The LRCE Teach certification program, which provides graduates with a Louisiana Level 1 teacher certification, takes about 12 months and costs $4,500.

It is a streamlined process to certification that still allows face-to-face interaction with potential educators and their instructors, Brister explained.

Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in any subject and also pass the state-mandated Praxis exams for teachers.

The second memorandum of understanding passed by the board Tuesday night is a similar agreement with iteachLouisiana, an organization that also provides graduates with a Louisiana Level 1 teacher certification.

The iteachLouisiana organization offers online courses for teachers that can be completed in 4-6 months; however, as with LRCE Teach, a year-long residency is also required.

The iteachLouisiana program costs $4,500.

According to the agreement passed by the board, if teachers recruited by the district complete the iteachLouisiana program and come to work for the Baker School System, the district will help cover the cost of the certification, Brister said.

The final agreement, between Baker Schools and Southern University, provides for residencies for Southern School of Education students through the district.

“This is a souped-up version of the old student teaching where we bring students in for a whole year to work with a master teacher, to increase their skills in lesson planning, classroom management and more, like an apprenticeship,” Brister said.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to add five days to the 2018-19 school year for Bakerfield Elementary, Baker Heights Elementary and Baker Middle School. Those three schools will begin classes on Aug. 1, while Baker High and Park Ridge Academic Magnet students will return from summer break Aug. 8.

The goal is to improve academic outcomes, Brister said.

Baker Heights and Park Ridge Academic Magnet received C’s on their state report cards in 2015-16, Baker High earned a D, and Baker Middle and Bakerfield both received F ratings.

Baker schools received a waiver on scores in 2016-17 due to the August 2016 flooding; however, the district as a whole retained its D rating.