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CMS is looking to hire over 300 new teachers for next school year.

The district is seeking to hire around 331 new teachers for next school year. They're offering recruitment bonuses to help lure people to the district.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is looking to fill around 331 teacher positions for the upcoming school year, according to district officials.

“We are always actively recruiting and trying to bring those staff in to be well ahead of the game for the start of the next school year,” Associate Superintendent for Human Resources Laura Francisco said.

But the district is having some trouble filling positions.

“It has been kind of across the board,” Francisco said. “It's just harder to find teachers right now, regardless of the level or the content area.”

Additionally, the district has seen resignations and retirements rise since the pandemic began.

Last year’s resignations were higher than the year before and — while the district doesn’t have its finalized report on resignations yet — internal data suggests that this year will have more departures as well, Francisco said.

Teachers who resign are asked to provide information on why they decided to leave and Francisco said the top reasons teachers are leaving are because they’ve gotten a job at another district, are staying home with family or are leaving the teaching profession altogether.

”Not necessarily in that order, but those are the top three,” Francisco said.

Francisco says that the current number of open teaching positions — around 331 — is not out of the norm for this point in the hiring cycle.

CMS has been enticing teachers to the district by offering a wide variety of bonuses, she said. They’ve offered retention bonuses for all teachers as well as offering critical shortage pay for teachers in high-need areas like science and math. Those teachers get an additional $200 tacked onto their paycheck every month.

Additionally, the district is also offering recruitment bonuses to new teachers joining the district. As of last week, they had offered 153 bonuses to new teachers joining the district, Francisco said.

“I don't think it's solved the entire problem,” Francisco said. “I mean, the money is never going to be the only thing, but it's probably not going to hurt us.”

Many of these raises were paid for by federal COVID-19 aid given out to support government agencies during the pandemic.

CMS has also taken a number of other steps to recruit teachers, such as continuing to partner with colleges and universities, working to increase the number of student teachers joining the district as full-time employees and holding in-person and virtual recruitment events.

Even though virtual recruitment events became all the rage during the pandemic out of necessity, Francisco said that it has proven to be effective for the district and for prospective employees.

“Those digital events are super-efficient, both for our principals who are doing the hiring as well as our candidates because they literally can be anywhere,” Francisco said. “They don't have to be right here in person in Charlotte. That's added a lot of efficiency to our process.”

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education reports that there have been decreases in degrees earned in specialties with high needs such as a 27% in Science and mathematics, a 44% decrease in foreign languages and a 4% decrease in special education.

At CMS, they’ve seen a large proportion of jobs unfilled in its special education program, which the district calls the exceptional child program.

About 10% of special education teacher jobs in a variety of different classroom environments are unfilled, Associate Superintendent for Student Services Ann White said. In total, there are around 28 job openings for special education teachers.

But on top of that, special education teachers also have teacher assistants who are crucial for students, since some students have a variety of needs like requiring feeding tubes.

“If they did not have that teacher assistant helping them move through their day, they would not be able to access the instruction,” White said. “So it's physical well-being and accessing their education. “

The district is also hiring a new class of special education teacher.

Due to federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, special education teachers have greater paperwork requirements than most other teachers in order to ensure the district is in compliance with those laws.

“There's other related paperwork that can be distracting and isn't helping them instruct better on a daily basis,” White said.

To help ease that burden, CMS is hiring exceptional child process coordinating teachers. It’s a group of 30 teachers who focus on handling the paperwork for teachers serving students with special needs.

“Because that's taking a thing that is very important and required for compliance and documentation,” Francisco said. “But takes away from why a teacher may be a teacher and may have come to the field in the first place.”

As they try to hire employees for the special education program, White said this package can help make those positions more appealing.

“We know that there's a shortage of teachers nationally, statewide and locally,” White said. “So we've created this great package to attract you to work in CMS.”

The unfilled positions in CMS’s special needs program fit into a larger shortage across the U.S. This year, 48 of all 50 U.S. states reported to the federal government that they’re struggling to fill positions serving students with special needs.

But despite that environment, White is calling out to the community to lend a hand and help the district meet the needs of students and, in turn, the community itself.

“A community is interwoven and the school system doesn't sit separate from the larger community,” White said. When we have a problem, the community has a problem. When the community has a problem, we have a problem.”

So, she’s calling on people in the community to consider the open positions at CMS.

“We need teachers. We need people from the community who care about kids,” White said. “We're looking to the community to try to fill that gap because as one large community, we have to serve our kids because they're part of the whole and they need us… Come help — be a part of serving kids and helping them succeed.”

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Lars Lonnroth is a journalism and political science student at Mercer University in Georgia. He's interning at WFAE.