More than one thousand open teacher positions in Mississippi may be an indication of a teacher shortage in the state. MPB's Alexis Ware reports.
Mississippi school districts are working to fill vacant teacher positions as the school year begins. Jackson Public Schools, the second largest in the state, has some 200 positions yet to be filled. In North Bolivar Consolidated School District the shortage is lower but still evident. Nearly a week into the new school year and there are seven openings. Superintendent Maurice Smith says teachers with an emergency license will fill these positions.
"Quite naturally you'll prefer to have a certified teacher in most cases, but what we're trying to do is offer a safety net with those teachers with our coaches and principals and leadership team such that they will deliver quality instruction to the students."
The state Department of Education says 48 districts currently qualify as Critical Shortage Areas. Rachel Canter is with the group Mississippi First. She says positions often go unfilled in low income or rural areas in the state. Canter explains some of the ways districts can handle the shortfalls.
"Those solutions might be incentive pay to get them to move there, more mentoring, more support to make them feel like that's a place where they can be successful. It might also look like what can we do to restructure the way we have our classes so that we can have fewer professionals who are reaching more kids."
Canter and Superintendent Smith say raising teacher salaries could help schools recruit more licensed teachers.