NASHVILLE, Tenn. — We are three weeks into the new school year and MNPS still has 170 teacher vacancies. The biggest gaps are in science and math classes as well as special education.
Metro Nashville Public School Board Vice Chair Christiane Buggs insists the school year is off to a great start, but she admits the district is struggling to fill dozens of spots.
Currently, MNPS has 171 openings for certificated teachers - most of them at the high school level. Approximately 65 of them are being filled by substitutes who are waiting for their state teaching license to be approved. MNPS says many of its high schools - including Antioch, Cane Ridge, Maplewood, Pearl-Cohn, Stratford and Whites Creek - all still have at least 5 open positions.
Buggs says the district is doing what it can to quickly hire more teachers.
"We don't have the teaching force that we once did. People are getting degrees in math and biology and chemistry and physics and other STEM fields and they're not stepping into the classroom partly because it's not marketed appropriately and partly because we just don't look at education as a viable profession anymore and we should," she said.
She suggested going to universities and recruiting undergraduates.
"Making sure that students understand that they can both earn a bachelors degree in whatever their content field is but they can also go the teacher certification track," she said.
The district has lost hundreds of teachers in the last few years. Many of them tell us they chose to leave the district - and often the profession - because of poor pay and low morale.
Buggs says it's critical for the district to make sure teachers are well paid and that they feel appreciated.
"I think we tend to look at education or as teachers like they only teach content when we really should be looking at the fact that they are offering social and emotional learning support, that they are bringing in uniforms for their students, they are acting as therapists in many cases," Buggs said.
MNPS isn't the only system struggling to hire enough teachers. Sumner County currently has 33 teacher openings, Williamson County has 24 teacher openings, Wilson County has 12 openings, and Rutherford County Schools has 11 openings.
MNPS spokesperson Dawn Rutledge said the district is actively and aggressively working to hire and place teachers as quickly as possible. In fact, Dr. Tony Major sent an email to all principals this week telling them the district's plans to address the teacher shortage. You can read the entire email below.
Sent on behalf of Human Resources:
Principals, in an effort to address our current teacher vacancy rates, district leadership is working on a multiple phase plan for recruitment, retention and class coverage. The first two phases of the plan require your attention over the next week. Below you will find details regarding phases 1-3. The remaining will be shared with you at a later date. Attached is the current list of eligible employees in our system who we ask that you contact if you have a vacancy in their areas of certification.
MNPS continues to prioritize the recruitment of teacher candidates throughout the school year in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education and post-secondary institutions. To address our current teacher vacancies, central office leadership have proposed the following action steps to ensure our students are receiving quality instruction from certified teachers.
Phase 1: HR has researched and identified candidates who either applied for or previously worked for MNPS and who are eligible for employment and meet the certification requirements.
HR will send the list of eligible candidates to all MNPS principals
Principals will have until Tuesday, Aug. 27, to conduct interviews and make selections
On Wednesday, Aug. 28, HR staff in partnership with associate superintendents will assign any remaining candidate to a school that still has a vacancy posted in their area of certification.
Phase 2: HR staff has provided a list of all non-instructional staff currently working in a school to the associate superintendents. (ie- Deans, LTDS, ART, Specialist, etc.) Associate superintendents and EDS will work with principals to strategize on how to assign school-based specialist classroom teaching assignments to cover vacancies.
Master schedules will be reviewed to identify opportunities to restructure classroom rotations, sizes, and/or course offerings.
School-based specialists may serve in a teaching capacity full- or part-time dependent on the needs of the school.
Once a candidate for hire is identified, that specialist will return to his or her previous role.
Phase 3: 20 count/staff reassignment
The student assignment office will identify schools where enrollment counts are under and over projections.
If a school is identified as needing to lose a teacher, that teacher will be reassigned to a school that is over projections.
If a vacancy exists in a school that is under enrollment projections, the FTE will be transferred to a school that is over projections.