School district scrambles to fill vacant teaching spots

Relying on non-certified teachers

Coast Mountains School District has hired more non-certified people to fill teaching positions than expected as it continues to fill vacancies at the start of the school year.

Unexpected departures of teachers over the summer who have taken jobs elsewhere or who have had spouses transferred have caused CMSD to scramble, says Cam MacKay who handles human resources for the district.

“Late notice really hamstrings any district, particularly northern communities,” said MacKay in explaining the need to hire non-certified people under what are called letters of permission.

The urgency to fill positions extends to the district’s substitute teacher pool which MacKay describes as low despite securing four people on continuing contracts.

“The pool is healthiest in Terrace, compared to the other communities,” he said.

Coast Mountains employs more than 300 people to fill 290 full-time equivalent teaching positions and had nearly 90 postings to deal with this year – in all, the district has hired 15 new teachers so far this year.

Initially, officials thought they had a specific issue to deal with when a French immersion teacher unexpectedly gave notice but that teacher is now staying, said MacKay.

“We are not scrambling for a French immersion teacher now but it is an area that is definitely vulnerable,” he added.

Coast Mountains is not alone in this regard as school districts across the country are reporting a shortage of French immersion teachers.

Exact enrolment numbers won’t be gathered until the end of the month and then reported to the education ministry but the Grade 7 to 9 Skeena Middle School in Terrace is the largest in the district with 575 students.

School districts across B.C. were placed under increased pressure to hire teachers when teachers won a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in late 2016 restoring class sizes and composition to levels that existed in 2002 before the B.C. Liberal government of the day stripped them from collective agreements.

The province then pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the system, setting off a competition among those districts to recruit and retain teachers, a situation that put rural and northern districts at a disadvantage when compared to districts in more populated areas.

The province did, however, make money available to smaller districts to provide hiring incentives.

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