As the superintendent of the Aspen School District, David Baugh is busy. Getting certified as a school bus driver wasn’t on his list for the school year, but that’s exactly what he’s doing.
âWhen your superintendent drives buses, you have a problem,â he said.
Bus drivers are just one of more than two dozen vacancies in the Aspen school district, illustrating a nationwide shortage of staff in schools. In the local district, there are vacancies for substitute teachers, food service workers, counselors, sports coaches, mechanics, administrative staff and a guard.
The ripple effects of these open positions are felt by everyone, said Aspen Education Association president Stephanie Nixon. The AEA is a teachers’ union representing approximately half of the school district staff.
âEveryone is being asked to do more without more compensation,â Nixon said.
Due to the shortage of substitute teachers, teachers have to abandon their planning periods to replace other teachers. Currently, the district struggles to find submarines almost every day, Baugh said.
âIt affects all classrooms,â he said. “Further education is negatively affected.”
It doesn’t stop there. The foodservice program was unable to find enough staff and high school dining options were limited because of this. Two separate temp agencies help staff the food service to keep the quality of the food service constant.
The low number of bus drivers is one of the reasons the school district has moved to a split schedule this year, with elementary students starting school at 8 a.m. and middle and high school students at 8:45 a.m. This gives the same driver enough time to cover the route. twice, with the same 45-minute split at the end of the day. This has created problems for parents and teachers alike, with many having to get creative with after-school childcare options.
There are a number of reasons for the shortages, including wages, stress and flexibility, Nixon said.
âWe have had a number of teachers who have left teaching for higher paying jobs or teaching positions or for [lower-paying] jobs in the neighborhood that are less stressful and more flexible, âshe said.
The starting salary for teachers in the Aspen School District is $ 43,000, according to the district’s website.
There isn’t an exact number of vacancies, Baugh and Nixon said, as it fluctuates daily. But there are 24 job postings on the district’s website, many of which are part-time. The two agreed that students and their education remained a priority for the district, students and staff.
And of course there is the pandemic. Thirty-two percent of members surveyed by the National Education Association in June said they were leaving the profession earlier than expected due to the effects of COVID-19 on the education system.
This week, Baugh is attending a national conference for principals. He said the # 1 topic there is the staff shortage.
“No one has an answer and if he has it, no one is sharing it,” he said.
The Aspen School District has gone so far as to offer staff a referral bonus of $ 3,000, but so far no one has participated.
Nixon said she would like the district to recruit more actively at career fairs. The AEA would also like the state’s education department to reconsider some of the strict surrogate laws that might encourage more people in the classroom.
âObviously you have to pass the fingerprint and background tests, but how many credits do you need? Can we consider attracting more people to schools that may be good but don’t currently meet Colorado state guidelines on what a good teacher looks like? Asked Marnie White, AEA vice-president.
It’s also a matter of climate and culture within the district and the community, said Nixon and White. Earlier this week, the district council approved an update on a climate and culture survey. In the survey two years ago, 55% of those surveyed disagreed or strongly disagreed that district senior management is “who you rely on to do the right thing even when it’s difficult.” or difficult â.
Since then, the district leadership has changed dramatically, with a new superintendent, financial director, human resources director, and elementary and middle school principals.
In the United States, there are currently 10.4 million job openings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the number of unemployed has dropped to 7.7 million.
âIt’s a little dark right now,â Baugh said.