Like districts across the state and the nation, Floyd County Schools has been struggling to fill vacant teaching positions this summer.
The Kentucky Department of Education recently reported that 5,000 vacancies have been listed on the Kentucky Educator Placement Service this year, and the number of college students pursuing education degrees declined by more than 13 percent over the past five years.
Superintendent Danny Adkins said the district has “struggled all summer” to fill vacant positions — not just those of teachers and other certified staff, but also classified positions in schools and departments.
Floyd County ranked fifth for the highest number of vacancies posted in the last month, the Kentucky Education Placement Service reports online, with 30 teaching positions listed as vacant on Aug. 6.
The list included six vacancies at Allen Elementary, four at Floyd Central, Betsy Layne Elementary and John M. Stumbo, as well as others.
The list, however, included some positions that were recently filled, like the assistant principal spot at Betsy Layne Elementary, and it also listed at least two positions that will be filled by one employee (an itinerant music teacher at Betsy Layne elementary and high schools) and a JROTC position that has been posted as open since Floyd Central opened.
At that school, Adkins said he does not expect an allied health position to be filled this year, saying the district will likely suspend that position, but keep it open for a potential candidate in the future. He said the position has been vacant since Floyd Central opened.
“What we’ve ran into are folks that couldn’t get jobs in their home counties, and now because of this teacher shortage, are getting jobs back in Magoffin, Johnson, Martin, Lawrence, Pike counties. It’s depleting our workforce,” Adkins said.
He said Floyd County schools are “fortunate” because most schools will start the year with a full staff.
He said Allen Elementary and John M. Stumbo Elementary will have vacancies on opening day, but all other schools “pretty well have a full staff.”
“We’re really fortunate,” he said. “I think we’re going to start with really close to a full staff. I think we may have to start with a few subs, but we’ve done a pretty good job of recruiting, and I think one of our prerequisites, outside of what the state requires, is you’ve got to love kids.”
Adkins explained that having substitute teachers at the beginning of a school year causes challenges.
“The students feel a little uncomfortable simply because they’re aware that this is not really the same person that’s going to be with them all year,” Adkins said. “I shouldn’t say they get uncomfortable, but what we want is stability for the students, and when you have to work with a sub, you don’t always have that. That’s what makes it difficult for us.
And, you know, we set expectations for our teachers and then our teachers, in turn, set expectations for their students. With positions still open, they’ll be a few issues there.”
He reported that permanent substitute teachers, who, in most cases, are retired teachers, taught in five or six classrooms in Floyd County last year. Those teachers bring experience to the classroom, he explained.
“It’s a win-win really for us, because if we can’t find a teacher to put in there permanently … a retired teacher as a substitute is great because they’re used to classroom management, they’re used to high expectations, that type of thing,” he said.
Adkins said some vacancies are caused by staff transfers.
“One of the things that’s going on right now is that as we’re hiring some folks, it’s leaving vacancies at other schools,” Adkins said. “Like some of the schools, their staff have transferred or were hired at other schools here in the district as well, and that leaves a vacancy. Those are the kinds of things that we’re working through now. That’s why you’re still seeing an extensive list.”
He believes the biggest issue impacting teacher employment, however, is the pay.
“I think we just don’t have that many people going into education anymore. That’s my opinion,” Adkins said.
He said pay is an issue, talking about math and science teachers who could potentially make more money in other careers.
The KDE reports that the average teacher salary is $49,579 in Floyd County and the average salary of principals is about $83,700 — and those numbers are less than the state averages of $53,450 for teachers and $90,600 for principals.
The district spent $671,700 for substitutes in the 2017-18 school year, the KDE reported.
The Floyd County Board of Education recently voted to give all employees a one-percent raise.
To address teacher shortages, the state has offered alternative routes to teacher certification. Those options allow people who have “exceptional work experience,” undergo a local training program, serve as college faculty or adjunct instructors, are veterans or obtain certifications through other pathways to teach in elementary, middle and secondary schools.
Adkins reported that between eight and 10 employees were hired last week, and more interviews and orientations are planned.
The district has announced several administrative changes this year.
Since the end of July, the district has announced new principals and assistant principals at Betsy Layne Elementary, Prestonsburg Elementary and Adams Middle, and two new assistant principals were also named at Betsy Layne High School.
Several other administrative changes have also taken place recently.