Teachers needed: Contra Costa schools use recruiting events to fill widespread vacancies
on March 21, 2023
Prospective teachers are interviewing on the spot and some are getting offers at winter and spring job fairs across Contra Costa County.
Last month, dozens of candidates met recruiters at Alhambra High School in Martinez, where many districts competed for prospective employees amid a national teacher shortage.
And from 9 a.m. to noon this Saturday, West Contra Costa Unified School District will hold a job fair at DeJean Middle School.
WCCUSD has been hit hard by the shortage. At the end of the 2021-2022 school year, 200 teachers resigned and 55 retired. In September, the district had yet to fill 24 vacant elementary teaching positions and 16 secondary positions.
The shortage is widespread, and the pandemic has worsened it. According to a PBS News Hour report in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had recorded roughly 360,000 fewer workers in public education than before COVID-19 hit. The subjects in most need of teachers are special education, foreign languages, math, and the sciences, said Marcus Walton, Contra Costa Education Office spokesperson.
The shortage is not going unaddressed, said Norma Gonzalez, the Education Office’s assistant superintendent of human resources. The office hosts the annual countywide job fair to connect candidates and recruiters. And Gonzalez noted that districts in the county are trying to elevate teacher compensation and expand benefits, a first step in attracting workers.
WCCUSD is making headway with competitive salaries, Liz Sanders, WCCUSD spokesperson, said earlier this month. After tense negotiations during which the teachers union threatened to strike, the district recently approved a salary increase of 14.5% over two years.
At the Feb. 25 job fair in Martinez, Logan Calhoun was seeking a social studies position for either middle or high school.
“I love teaching. It’s just, it’s so much fun,” Calhoun said. “I love working with students.”
Ashley Enad, a student teacher currently attending Saint Mary’s, saw the event as a springboard to what she hopes will be a lengthy career in education.
“I have a 10-year plan, to teach for 10 years and see how it goes,” she said. “Once I reach 10 years, if I want to move into administration or if I want to continue teaching, I’ll decide then.”
Sanders said the job fairs are meant to encourage prospective educators and welcome them into public education, where they are sorely needed.
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