With a month to go, schools scramble to fill vacancies

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 3:06 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - School will be starting again in a little more than a month.

And across the north country, there are at least 120 teaching and other positions - guidance counseling, special education - positions open.

That’s based on a 7 News survey of every school district’s publicly available information, on their websites, in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. The actual number may be higher, if a school does not list its openings on its web site.

And importantly, the number does not include substitute teachers and other substitute positions.

Heuvelton Superintendent Jesse Coburn calls it a zero-sum game. Often times when it comes to teachers, one district’s gain is another’s loss.

“The population of New York state has been decreasing, and it’s been decreasing more from the rural areas. So it’s kind of a zero-sum game where if we’re getting a new teacher, it’s very likely they’re coming from a neighboring district,” Coburn told 7 News.

The district with the largest number of openings appears to be Watertown, with 22.

Massena Central Superintendent Patrick Brady said the district has had to get creative in training its own staff to fill jobs.

For example, the district has hired teaching assistants to work in the classroom while taking coursework to obtain their certification. They then are able to fill areas like technology and special education.

Nearly every school district’s web site employment page looks the same, in that there’s an ongoing opening for substitutes in almost every area. Heuvelton started something new last year: hiring several permanent substitutes.

“That’s kind of helpful too with the whole ‘grow your own’ idea, where you have a chance to go ahead and see how does this individual work with students,” Coburn said.

“I think it’s better overall because the students then know the adults in the building and the adults know the kids.”

And like other districts, Heuvelton has raised the pay for substitutes. Since the 2019-20 school year, the daily rate for a certified sub has gone up 31 percent, from $95 to $125.

They’re “trying to be competitive with area schools and keep the best staff possible here,” Coburn said.

Coburn said about five positions are open and interviews were being completed this week. Overall he’s says he’s cautiously optimistic about the outcome.

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