Sacramento CA schools turn to job fair amid teacher shortage

Kenneth Palmer

Kimberly Miller, a history teacher at Starr King TK-8, helps seventh-grader Marjan Amini with an assignment Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

Kimberly Miller, a record teacher at Starr King TK-8, helps seventh-grader Marjan Amini with an assignment Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

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School districts across California are still struggling with teacher and staffing shortages even as retirements and concerns about the pandemic have waned.

About 20,000 teaching positions are still vacant across California – 2,300 of which are across Sacramento County’s 13 school districts.

But hiring new employees is not the only goal, said Dave Gordon, Sacramento Superintendent of Schools. SCOE is committed to fostering diversity on campuses and encouraging teens and young adults to pursue a career in education at the start of their college journey in hopes to retain strong, qualified candidates.

“One of our goals to better serve our young people is to hire more people who look like our young people and those they serve,” said Gordon. “That’s been difficult to achieve.”

About 80{af0afab2a7197b4b77fcd3bf971aba285b2cb7aa14e17a071e3a1bf5ccadd6db} of U.S. public school teachers are white, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. In California, about 23{af0afab2a7197b4b77fcd3bf971aba285b2cb7aa14e17a071e3a1bf5ccadd6db} of the student population is white, while 63{af0afab2a7197b4b77fcd3bf971aba285b2cb7aa14e17a071e3a1bf5ccadd6db} of teachers are white. Nearly three-quarters of the California teacher workforce is female, according to the California Department of Education.

“Greater diversity of teachers may mitigate feelings of isolation, frustration, and fatigue that can contribute to individual teachers of color leaving the profession when they feel they are alone,” the CDE states on its website.

A job fair could help

The Sacramento County Office of Education hopes to fill those jobs through an employment fair on Saturday, March 18.

More than 60 school districts from Sacramento to the Bay Area will participate, including Natomas Unified, Sacramento City Unified, Elk Grove Unified, Twin Rivers Unified and Folsom Cordova Unified. About 45 school districts will be on-site. Registration is free.

School districts across Northern California are looking to hire more teachers, language, speech and hearing therapists, mental health clinicians, and para-educators. Office staff and food service members are also in need.

SCOE is also looking to hire 300 mental health clinicians over the next few years.

Folsom Cordova Unified officials are focusing on hiring Spanish and 17 special education teachers. They have 61 teacher openings for the 2023-24 school year. The district is also looking for 20 additional bus drivers, 83 learning assistants, and 35 year duty supervisors.

Shortages have been around for a long time

Teacher shortages are not new.

Teacher prep programs have seen dwindling numbers in recent years, according to The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. They predate the coronavirus pandemic, but they have been exacerbated in recent years with concerns over health, safety and the state’s high cost of living.

Education experts say exams that education systems use as barriers to entry to the profession disproportionately impact aspiring teachers of color. Gordon doesn’t think education officials have confronted these barriers squarely enough.

“Many of our young people are from underserved communities, and they don’t have the support from their families,” he said. “They need paid work along the way to get through the stages of community college, then a four-year college, and a very long and expensive licensure.

School districts across the region significantly raised substitute teacher wages in recent months, placing a bandage on a crisis not going away any time soon.

“Retirements and resignations are slowing down, but I don’t think they have disappeared entirely,”Gordon said.

But shortages have continued to stress families out this school year. In August, Elk Grove Unified made changes to its special education program due to staffing shortages, separating dozens of specialists from students who trusted them.

Gordon said one of the challenges is creating a pipeline from high school to employment in many of these careers in education. Getting students into mentorships and internships early on their careers is key, Gordon said.

“This is more than an employment fair,” Gordon said of the event. SCOE is working to assist students with support and training.

“We really believe one of the weak spots in our system in finding young people is trying to help them financially,” Gordon said, adding that many students need assistance with early steps like registering for community college and accessing mental health clinicians.

The employment fair will take place at SCOE’s office at 10474 Mather Blvd in Mather, CA on Saturday, March 18 from 9:00 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Linked tales from Sacramento Bee

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Sawsan Morrar covers faculty accountability and society for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of UC Berkeley Graduate University of Journalism. She beforehand freelanced for different publications like The Washington Put up, Vice, KQED and Funds General public Radio.

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