Wednesday, August 11, 2021

LAUSD Struggles to Fill Thousands of Positions

I hadn't thought about this. 

They're hurting for teachers, counselors, school nurses (and no doubt more).

At LAT, "Thousands of vacancies for L.A. teachers, counselors, nurses remain days before school starts":

Days before the academic year starts, a well-funded hiring spree for Los Angeles schools is falling short of its goal to provide unprecedented and critical mental health and academic support as a shortage of teachers and other professionals collides with pandemic recovery goals.

The staffing ambitions of the nation’s second-largest school district have been sweeping — targeting hires to meet academic needs, mental and physical wellness and campus sanitation. And in all areas, staffing appears to be strengthened compared to pre-pandemic levels. But it’s also not what officials had hoped for — and leaders worry that important needs will not be met effectively.

Shortfalls are particularly pronounced in positions serving students most in need of academic and mental health recovery. Many teachers and counselors promised to elevate achievement and well-being of Black students haven’t been hired. Hundreds of special education and math teacher posts — the hardest to fill in normal times — are vacant. School nurses and mental health specialists are seemingly impossible to find. Half of the openings remain for school facilities and cleaning staff.

In all, the district had hoped to hire the equivalent of 4,389 full-time positions that require a professional credential for teaching or a related field. This would include librarians, principals, other administrators and counselors. Of these open slots, 2,000 — less than half — had been filled as of July 29, the most recent date for which figures are available.

Several school board members and leaders of local advocacy groups found the number of vacancies worrisome.

“There has never been a more compelling need for support services and qualified teachers for our most vulnerable students,” said Katie Braude of Speak Up. “LAUSD must find a way to meet the immediate needs of students returning from a year and a half of limited instruction.”

“The staffing shortage should NOT be another disproportionate inequitable impact on our most vulnerable students,” said Ana Ponce, executive director of Great Public Schools Now, in an email.

Board member George McKenna wanted to see disaggregated numbers geographically pinpointing the vacancies — data that were not presented to the school board at its Tuesday meeting. In his prior service as a district administrator, he became familiar and frustrated with the high vacancy and turnover rate at schools that served large numbers of low-income and minority students.

A scramble is on to fill vital positions by the Aug. 16 start of school, but if schools were to open immediately, 479 classrooms would be staffed with substitute teachers. While the district is hiring continually, the classroom vacancy number has dropped by only seven teachers in the last 12 days. One problem is that some teachers are leaving the classroom to fill other vacancies, such as for reading specialists, administrative positions and other out-of-classroom jobs, leaving their principals with last-minute openings to backfill.

Administrators described hiring efforts that include using job boards, social media, virtual job fairs, workforce centers, referrals, radio and print advertising and outreach through parent groups and labor unions.

“During these unprecedented times, we are hiring everywhere,” Chief Human Resources Officer Ileana M. Dávalos said.

Los Angeles Unified is not alone in facing a hiring crunch. Even before the pandemic, teacher retirements were outpacing new teachers...

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