(Forsyth County, GA) School districts around the country have been bumping up salaries and even cutting the school week down to four days in order to combat the teacher staffing shortage.
While not as extreme as some other districts, the Forsyth County School District (FCSD) has also been experiencing its fair share of struggles.
“School districts, especially large districts such as Forsyth which is the largest employer in the county, are facing the same challenges other employers are facing across the nation with the Great Resignation,” said Forsyth County Schools Chief Communications Officer Jennifer Caracciolo.
Like most other districts, teachers started leaving the teaching field at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of August 31, 2022, there were four open teacher positions at elementary schools and three at high schools in the district. Math, science and special education teachers are the hardest positions to fill.
Caracciolo said the reasons for this exodus vary, but that the district has ramped up its response to the issue.
While attracting new talent is important, retaining current teachers is also a priority. The district recently raised the minimum teacher salaries for the 2022/2023 school year from $46,746 to $50,000.
Teachers with higher certification levels and more years of experience also have a higher starting wage. For example, the starting salary for a teacher at the Level 7 category is $67,043.
Caracciolo points out that higher salaries aren’t the only added bonus of teaching in Forsyth County.
“We also have frequent breaks built into the calendar – 1 week for fall, 1 week for Thanksgiving, a longer break for Winter, a long-weekend in February, and 1 week for spring break,” Caracciolo said.
Through the Forsyth Education Foundation, the district is working to provide their current teachers and paraprofessionals (teacher assistants) with a faster way of advancing to other positions in the district, such as school counselor.
This October, the Dr. Jim and Peggie Morrow iChallenge will be a part of the Forsyth County Education Foundation.
The iChallenge is a 28-day fitness challenge open to community members, teachers/staff, families and students. Participants are encouraged to “create healthy habits” by walking, biking, running or other activities.
Participants log their activities virtually for a chance to win prizes. Tickets for children are $10 and $20 for adults.
The funds go towards supporting the teacher preparation programs.
Gaining new teachers
In order to draw in new hires, the district has been ramping up its college recruiting efforts. It also has added a way for those who already have college degrees that aren’t in teaching to pursue a career in the field.
The Forsyth Teacher Academy is an alternate route to teacher certification approved by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaTAPP).
Qualified candidates go through a one or two-year program at the district where students will teach classes with the mentorship of a specialist in that field and participate in professional learning and instructional seminars.
Applicants must pass the required assessments to be considered. While applications are accepted all year, admission happens once a year in the spring.
High priority job openings
While the district is struggling for teachers, Caracciolo said their biggest need at the moment is for bus drivers and custodians. The district is hosting transportation job fairs on October 8 and November 5 in an effort to get more drivers on buses.
If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at email@example.com.