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Divisions see teacher shortages

Schools in Cumberland County are among divisions across the Heart of Virginia and the state struggling to fill teaching positions for the upcoming school year, says Division Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin.

Dr. Amy Griffin

Griffin, during the Tuesday meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors, said the division has vacancies for two elementary school teachers, two middle school math teachers, one middle school science teacher, one middle school history teacher, one high school Algebra I teacher and one high school chemistry teacher.

“A lot of the divisions in the region are struggling to find teachers,” Griffin said during the board meeting. “We’re doing our best to try to get everyone on board.”

Griffin said school will begin Aug. 9, and all division teachers report for duty July 31.

Following the meeting, Griffin said that filling teaching positions has been a priority in past years, but this year has been challenging as positions have been cut and teachers are leaving for various reasons.

The county’s allocation to the schools of roughly $3.9 million for fiscal year 2017-18, which included an additional allocation of $131,000, was $169,000 less than the $300,000 the Cumberland County School Board requested.

As a result of the funding, Griffin said the division had to cut a career and technical education position, a high school business teacher, a middle school special education teacher and an elementary school in-school suspension position.

Griffin noted that competitive salaries for teachers in surrounding counties have also prompted some of the vacancies.

The salary range for Cumberland teachers posted on the division’s website begins at $37,784 per year and ends at $54,346.

The average teaching salary in Cumberland County, according to a survey by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) in 2016, was $47,303.

Average teaching salaries for Buckingham, Prince Edward and Lunenburg in 2016, by comparison, were $43,398, $41,166 and $46,599 respectively, according to the VDOE.

Goochland County Public Schools had an average salary of $48,401 and Nottoway County Public Schools had an average salary of $46,481, according to the VDOE.

Griffin said the division’s challenge is part of a statewide trend of school divisions struggling to fill teaching positions for elementary, middle and high schools, particularly for secondary math teachers.

VDOE ranks math teachers for grades 6-12 No. 5 in its top 10 critical teaching shortages in the state for the 2017-18 school year.

Dr. Cecil Snead

Buckingham Division Superintendent Dr. Cecil Snead said the county’s schools are fully staffed for the upcoming school year.

He said that the division has faced challenges for foreign language teachers, listed as No. 8 in the VDOE list of critical teaching shortages, but said the schools were able to get the teaching positions needed during the county’s most recent school board meeting.

Griffin said the CUCPS has worked with many in the community, particularly college students pursuing education, to promote teaching in the county.

She said Longwood University students have had the opportunity to work as student teachers and that the division has supported education students in the Call Me Mister program, which offers teaching opportunities and training for African-American students at Longwood.

Griffin said there have been times where all teaching positions have appeared to be in place, but teachers have had to leave due to moving to another area or family circumstances.

“People are leaving for all different reasons,” Griffin said.

She said the division will continue to seek teachers for the upcoming school year.

“Our struggle is that salary is not competitive and there are not enough teachers (to fill the positions),” Griffin said.

Division Superintendent Charles Berkley said Lunenburg County Public Schools (LCPS) is also facing teaching shortages.

“We are experiencing this in Lunenburg County as well as all surrounding school divisions in Southside Virginia and the state,” Berkley said in an email.

Special education teachers, elementary school teachers, a media specialist, career and training education teachers and guidance counselors are among the open positions Berkley cited for LCPS.

Secondary science and math teachers were also listed among the anticipated open positions on the LCPS website.

Salary ranges for the upcoming school year for Lunenburg, according to the division’s website, begin at $37,407 and end at $52,074.

Division Superintendent of Prince Edward County Dr. Barbara Johnson couldn’t be reached for comment.