Weeks before students are due back in class, a Maine school district is trying to fill about 80 jobs.
Lewiston Superintendent Todd Finn says the city needs more than 30 teachers and 40 educational technicians by the end of August.
“I’m encouraged by the situation, as nuts as that may sound,” said Finn, who has had the district’s top job for about a month.
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Finn says the shortage isn’t atypical because of the district’s size and a slight decrease in the number of young people who want to be teachers.
Lewiston has 5,600 students, 589 teachers and 280 educational technicians.
Finn explained a number of teachers and other staff have either retired or left for other reasons.
“A lot of our ed. tech openings have occurred because the folks who’ve been working as ed. techs have completed their course work and gone on to become teachers,” he said.
The shortage remains a challenge and the city isn’t facing it alone.
“Unfortunately, Lewiston is not unique in their needs,” said Kelli Deveaux, director of communications for the Maine Department of Education. “Their numbers seem very high and that captures the attention, but those people in our smaller and more rural communities are trying to fill those positions.”
Efforts by the state to actively recruit teachers include pitching Maine to graduating educators, streamlining processes for teacher certification and by changing what Deveaux calls a “narrative” that teachers are undervalued.
“If we don’t have a workforce that is there to fill those classrooms, there’s not a ton that we can do here other than to try and gather and promote as much as we can to get people to move here,” she said.
Finn says his effort to recruit will be including demonstrating Lewiston Public Schools is a 21st Century education environment and a place teachers want to work and see a future.
To do that, Finn will ideally be 100% staffed by Aug. 28 or 29, though he stressed the schools are 96% staffed as is and anyone doing hiring will thoroughly vet all candidates.
“We don’t want to put unqualified people or just a warm body in front of our kids,” said Finn. “There’s a sense of urgency, not a sense of emergency.”
Anyone interested in applying for a job with Lewiston Public Schools can apply on the school system’s website.
Finn also said the city school board may approve pending hires he’s recommending later this month. If that happens, it would greatly reduce the number of openings posted right now.