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HomeNewsArchivesED DEPT. BRACING FOR EXODUS OF TEACHERS

ED DEPT. BRACING FOR EXODUS OF TEACHERS

Even though more than three months remains in the school year, Department of Education officials are looking ahead to the next. And what they are seeing – and hearing – is that there could be a shortage of teachers to begin the 2000-2001 session.
The predicament of not enough teachers, however, isn’t new. Parents of Charlotte Amalie High School ninth-grade students complained to the governor earlier this year that there was a shortage of at least eight teachers for required subjects, including general science, English, foreign language, industrial arts and math.
Terrence Joseph, insular superintendent of schools on St. Croix, said future staffing needs in his district, which has approximately 1,200 teachers, are not yet clear. But he said the "rumors" he’s heard amongst teachers is that there will be an exodus, especially with early retirement legislation pending in the Senate.
"What we are doing is trying to get a handle on all these things," Joseph said. "We have a lot of people who may retire. A lot of factors are being taken into consideration."
Louise Brown, the DOE’s director of personnel and labor relations, said recently that the average age of teachers in the public school system is 43 years old. Some of those people, she said, will be retiring under the early retirement bill.
Under the bill, for every two people who opt for retirement, only one can be hired.
"It’s going to be a very difficult situation for the department," Brown said, adding that there are also teachers who may seek employment in other districts on the mainland. Her office is asking teachers to submit a letter of intent to return by April 15. "We’re encouraging them to let us know if they’re going to return."
On the other end of the spectrum, both Joseph and Brown said low starting salaries – in the low $20,000-a-year range — make it difficult to hire new teachers.
"A lot of districts are giving bonuses to come," Joseph said. "They are encouraging them to come. We aren’t doing that, we can’t. We used to offer sun and beaches. We can’t offer just that anymore. You can’t take that to the supermarket."
Joseph said it will take a massive infusion of cash to stem the flow of teachers leaving the territory for greener pastures. Public School teachers are owed step increases dating back to 1995. But even if the government did find money to pay the steps, Brown said that wouldn’t solve the territory’s problem.
"Whether or not teachers get a salary increase, we’re going to have to recruit," she said.
Because of rumors that many teachers won’t be returning to their positions, Joseph said the DOE has no other option but to "put its feelers out" at the upcoming National Minority Recruiting Fair in New York.
"We’re doing our best to ensure that the class rooms are staffed with quality teachers," Brown said.

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