A statewide teacher shortage is leading to classroom overcrowding and a reliance on substitutes in many school districts, including Oklahoma City Public Schools.
The city district, however, has narrowed the gap by paying new teachers more money and recruiting outside of Oklahoma.
The district is focusing its efforts on Iowa, Colorado, South Dakota and Ohio — states with a teacher surplus.
“We were able to hire great teachers from those states to work here in Oklahoma City,” district spokeswoman Tierney Tinnin said. “We're looking at going back to those states to continue our recruiting efforts.”
In addition to attending job fairs in other states, recruiters are interviewing over the phone and using SKYPE to connect with candidates.
“We looked at states that had a surplus of teachers and not enough jobs,” Tinnin said. “We need more people. We need more teachers.”
A job fair set for March 4 is expected to cut into the district's 41 vacancies. Of the openings, the district is looking to hire 15 special education teachers and 10 fifth- and sixth-grade teachers.
The remaining vacancies include mostly math and science positions.
Additionally, the district will need to hire 30 teachers for the 2014-15 school year, when the district plans to offer additional prekindergarten classes.
Oklahoma City Public Schools, the largest school district in the state with more than 45,000 students and 2,700 teachers, has struggled to recruit and retain teachers because of low salaries and challenges that include high poverty and low parent involvement.
“Our district's the toughest place in the state of Oklahoma to work because of the needs of our children,” said Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City union that negotiates with the district on behalf of 2,750 teachers. “They come to us with many needs that people in the suburbs and rural districts can't even contemplate.”
“We're at a different starting point with these children and if we can't keep our retention level high with quality teachers then we as a district are starting over to meet the needs of kids,” he added.