Teacher shortage still an issue; USD 259 looks outward for new talent

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Thursday morning, more than 350 new teachers and staff made their way into Northwest High for staff orientation, but officials with USD 259 say it’s still short of the number of teachers they need.

“We were in a hiring freeze and so as of June 1, we had over 200 openings in our district,” said Shannon Krysl with USD 259’s human resources.

That situation was a precedent that the district hadn’t seen before, but today, things are very different.

“We feel very good,” said Krysl “we honestly didn’t know we would be sitting this well at this point in time.”

While they’re feeling good, the problem isn’t completely solved. Of those 350 people staff members, it still doesn’t cover the number of teachers needed for every classroom.

There are still 53 classes without teachers just two weeks ahead of the start of school.

Most of those positions, 28, are in special education. That means they’ll have to turn to an option is less than ideal: using long-term substitutes until they can hire qualified teachers.

A big part of being able to fill that gap is due to hiring in a different way.

“We usually hire our student teachers in those vacancies, we identify that talent while they’re in our schools, and this year we lost almost all our student teachers to other districts because we were in the hiring freeze,” said Krysl.

Krysl says because of the hiring freeze, they looked for talent from colleges, towns, and states they hadn’t actively recruited from. That’s where they found teachers like Amy Shamp who moved here from Owatanna, Minnesota to teach at Curtis Middle School.

“Wichita called and asked me to come to the teacher recruitment interviews, I can’t even remember, it was at the end of June.”

She points out the atmosphere for teaching has led to people applying all across the country for positions.

“I went all the way to Oregon, I went to Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa, and I just kind of spread it out and this one just seemed to be the best fit,” said Shamp.

While not all of the teachers coming in are from out of our area, officials says they’re glad they were able to fill in some of the gap and feel confident they’ll be able to do more hiring in December with student teachers.

New teacher orientation continues tomorrow, and of course, the first day of class for Wichita public schools is scheduled for August 24.

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