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With School Year Approaching, Vt. Districts Eager to Hire

Districts statewide are reporting they need staff, the state’s education agency said

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Vermont school districts are reporting they are eager to add staff, just a few short weeks before the start of the academic year.

"It’s nationwide," noted Denise Bailey, the executive director of human resources for the Burlington School District, referring to how Burlington mirrors many other communities in needing job applicants — urgently. "We still have a lot of positions we really do need to fill."

The issue is causing schools across the country to scramble to find help, according to a report by the Today show.

A job fair Friday aimed to fill a wide range of positions for Burlington schools, such as food service staff, elementary school teachers, custodians, special educators, HVAC techs, paraeducators, and more.

The chairwoman of the Burlington School Board, Clare Wool, warned of possible impacts on families from staffing shortages.

"Our after-school program has been delayed a week," Wool said, adding that the delay should enable the hiring of area college students to staff the after-school offerings.

Wool also said a lack of bus drivers could mean parents of children with mobility challenges may have to transport their kids themselves come fall.

Damon Peykar, the director of student support services for the district, said he wants to avoid seeing vulnerable kids who’d most benefit from para-educators lose out on valuable 1-on-1 time.

"All of us are trying to improve our communities, contribute in our communities," Peykar observed, urging people to consider applying for a job as a paraeducator. "I think schools are one of the places that we can do that most effectively."

COVID is often blamed for staff shortages, because of how it particularly stressed schools and inspired retirements or job switches.

"Burlington is not alone in this problem," said Patrick Halladay, who directs the Vermont Agency of Education’s division of education quality.

Halladay said rural towns in Vermont may be struggling the most to attract applicants.

"It’s something we’re hearing consistently from schools, that they’ve never faced this level of challenge in finding qualified teachers to apply for their positions," Halladay told NECN & NBC10 Boston in an interview Friday.

Halladay said there is no single solution to the problem, but he pointed to several ways Vermont is trying to turn things around. They include spreading the word that people licensed as educators in other states have low barriers to transferring their licensure here.

Additionally, more provisional teaching certificates are being distributed, and a new state law allows retired teachers to rejoin the workforce temporarily — while still collecting retirement benefits.

Back in Burlington, the district has translated its application materials, hoping members of the New American community will apply — full or part-time.

"We have incredibly flexible opportunities for people to work four hours a day or six hours a day," Wool said, indicating that parents of current students may find it appealing to work during the school day, then be home with their kids after school gets out.

The Burlington School District’s job fair will continue on Saturday, August 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the high school on Cherry Street.

"We do want to be fully staffed, for the benefit of the students, and for the benefit of our other staff who have to pitch in if we’re short-staffed," Bailey told NECN & NBC10 Boston.

More information on working for Burlington schools, including a list of open positions, is available through the district’s careers page. 

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