FLEMINGTON, NJ - The Hunterdon Central Regional High School board of education approved many full time equivalent positions for the district Monday, with nearly all of them allocated for instruction in world languages and science courses.
The board and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeffrey Moore discussed root causes of a shortage in the availability of qualified long-term substitute teachers for the district to draw from and, in general, a lack of recent graduates and second-career teaching professionals in New Jersey.
As a result of the semester starting a day later, and teachers coming back from leave later, 0.2-time compensations were due to substitute teachers. Approvals of 0.2 FTE covers costs of the pensionable assignments substitutes receive.
For the first 20 days a substitute works, HCRHS pays $100 per day for a regular sub and $150 per day for a certificated sub. A “Step I” pay increase is required by law on the 21st day of a substitute assignment.
The multiple appointments Monday evening was attributed to a lack of long-term substitutes for subject areas. HCRHS board members said they would like to enhance the continuity of instruction to keep longer-term substitutes and avoid multiple changes at the helm of classrooms.
“Our ideal situation is to bring in somebody with the certification who is available on the job market,” Moore said. “That is our first preference. Science is very hard and some subjects of world languages can be hard to fill too.”
“In a few situations, we are dealing with certification areas that are no longer supported (by offerings) through our colleges and universities,” he added. “It may become harder than it already is now to find certificated personnel for computer science and other 21st century careers.”
Board member Jeff Charney commented on a "soft sell for recruiting science teachers” being the opportunity for student teaching with students enrolled at The College of New Jersey and other area colleges. He says there’s a key turning point once a student teacher learns and has a comfort factor within a school system, and gains feedback from that school “on their own pedagogy.”
Moore added that, as student teachers seek positions, their familiarity with a district they worked in as a student teacher is a strength, and vice versa for administrators when reviewing qualities of applicants.
“It takes a while to get to know a school and find a home there, and we do like that prospect of student teaching,” the superintendent said.
Moore spoke about developing pipeline partners in academia and attracting educators graduating from TCNJ, “as state teaching requirements begin to soften.” He said he has had discussions with TCNJ administration, including the director of TCNJ’s teacher preparation program, as Moore sees the institution based in Ewing as a good fit to partner with HCRHS because it is straight down Route 31.
Moore noted that TCNJ offers teacher certification areas that other major schools in New Jersey don’t.
Board member Robert Richard explained a problem as due to STEM industries, people graduating in science fields – with a degree in chemistry, for example – would have an option to begin their careers working for a major corporation and with a salary of $80,000 to begin, versus becoming a teacher with a $50,000 salary.
Board member Michael Dendis asked about the potential for a larger pool of full-time substitutes from Alternate Route Teacher preparation programs, including those obtaining initial certificates of eligibility after coursework at county community colleges.
Moore said that education professionals recognize value in attracting budding teachers who "have had self-actualizing experiences" in their own education in the state. He cited a report on the number of candidates in the teacher certification areas lacking most, and for sciences such as physics, that can amount to just seven or eight certified graduates a year across the state.
Overall, Moore said, he believes school districts across New Jersey have felt the pain of being without student teachers at their service. Moore said HCRHS and other competitive districts need ways of attracting teaching talent, “as pre-service teachers, because once they are out on the market they will go anywhere they want.”
“Student teaching offers an excellent apprenticeship pipeline,” he said. “This district had stepped away from student teaching due to concerns over the state’s arrangement of that, as the rule changes made it more difficult for districts to do it. I also had concerns over the new state teacher certification requirements working against encouraging some needed diversity, and I continue to hold the line.”
“But we will start exploring that again as requirements are re-thought a bit at the state level,” he added. “Teaching requirements are sort of fragile and it’s a good time to push for advocacy and what we want, partner with institutions such as TCNJ and say ‘look what we’ve built.’”