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Officials look to mainland to deal with teacher shortage

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    Students at Campbell High School in Ewa.

The state Department of Education has been seeking out educators from the mainland to deal with the state’s growing teacher shortage.

Officials expect as many as 1,600 vacancies throughout the state next school year. The department has responded by sending teams to meet with potential applicants in major cities across the U.S., including Chicago, New York, Portland and Los Angeles, Hawaii News Now reported.

“Teachers are in such demand everywhere. Every school district is trying to steal from the other’s district,” said Barbara Krieg, assistant superintendent for the Office of Human Resources.

Even if the state can successfully recruit enough people, officials say retaining those teachers could present a challenge. Newly recruited teachers are often placed in rural schools, where there is more of a need, and have to face the state’s high cost of living.

“Hawaii has one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the nation and this is more so for people that come from the mainland,” said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. “They say, ‘I can’t live here’ and they leave and we have to go back and recruit, and this cycle just continually happens.”

But some recruits from the mainland have learned to thrive and say that teaching in Hawaii has its benefits. Brittney Driggs, a New Jersey native, was recruited right after college and has been teaching special education at Mililani High School in Honolulu for six years.

“My first year here, a lot of my fellow colleagues were like, ‘Oh, you’re going to be a one-year wonder,” said Driggs. “I know the pay isn’t as good as the mainland, but I think it’s worth it.”

The DOE is looking to fill vacancies in special education, secondary mathematics and secondary science. The state also needs more teachers in rural neighbor island areas and Oahu’s Leeward Coast. Financial incentives are available for applicants.

The department has also been focusing its efforts on retaining current teachers and informing young people of education jobs in their communities.

“Over time, especially in areas where it’s hard to find people who know the area or are willing to stay in the area, we really need to what we call grow our own teachers,” Krieg said.

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  • Until Lokilani Lyndsey killed the PETOM (Pre-service Education of Teachers of Minorities) program, KS, the DOE & the UHM College of Education successfully recruited and trained teachers from the rural areas of Oahu. This program, in which teacher candidates attended classes in cohorts, addressed the high turnover rate in these rural schools. While resurrecting a program like PETOM may help reduce the teacher shortage in hard to staff schools, the bottom line, as it is for any business, is that the DOE must pay better to attract enough teachers to be able to select the best rather than hiring any warm body who applies.

    • agree…there is a great deal more that could be done to recruit locally. Local people stay here..have roots here and retention rates are good. Teach for America has been a waste of time and money by the way. Put that money into teacher training here. Keep it local. TFA teachers are not well trained and leave as soon as they can.

  • you want to recruit and retain teachers? simple economics, raise the pay and they will come and further more, they may stay longer then the average 3-5 retention rate. Continue to pay the Teachers substandand pay, and the problem will continue. Do they think it will change if the salary issue doesn’t improve? Wishful thinking. For the most part, one gets what they pay for. The DOE is fortunate that they have dedicated Teachers who continue in the field despite the secondary income salary conditions. I know, I see how hard they work in the schools that my children have attended.

    • Its always salary, huh? Here’s the real issue(s)>
      Doe gestapos hire new teachers the following way:
      1) For example, if your are licensed teacher for elementary (K-6)you get we tell you. A successful K teacher will be often forced to teach 5 or 6 the grade. That means a loss of success and forcing someone to work in something they don’t want.
      2) “you take the district school we say…no choice” Example: a teacher who may be community soccer coach and girl scout leader who knows allot of the kids in the community is forced to move to a school where she knows no one, is far away from where she lives=loss of contacts, forced long commute etc.
      3) if you refuse the offers twice, you’re out of the hiring pool!
      If you want retention and lots of candidates you don’t ask them in and then hit them with a 2×4 in the face. Good management seeks to make positive and “happy” offers.
      Surprise” we can’t get anyone to work or stay says DOE DUH! You want a better system get rid of the power mad control freaks=DOE.
      P.S. to add insult to injury the DOE is 50% bureaucracy, and only 50% education-teaching. Can you say WASTE!

      • All the departments of this State are MALFEASANT, and the DOE is one of the departments that is at the top of the list! Our Governor’s wife is a vice-principal with multiple degrees, and she needs to guide her husband to understand the needs of all the schools. These problems are born “from the top–down”. Get with it, David! Wake Up! The DOE is crippled and riddled with inept personnel, and the staff needs to expand, forthwith.

  • My 2-cents : PARENT PARTICIPATION!!! And, Parent Interaction with their children, the classrooms, and Teachers. e.g. I have a friend and his fiancée, both with Masters Degrees and their parents were also Teachers/Educators. There lifelong dream was to teach. They were both thrown in to Waianae Schools, and they both were looking forward to making a difference, etc..
    They lasted 3 years. They couldn’t deal with the teenage pregnancies, drugs, and daily violence. Many of the children’s parents were in Prison and raised by family members–mostly Grandparents, many of whom had illnesses, etc.. Ultimately these children are “left behind”. There has to be a way! But, Teachers/Educators cannot spend the entire school day dealing with delinquencies, truancies, and violence… The individual Communities have to ban together and intervene to deal with these issues, so children who have SPECIAL NEEDS and those with EXCEPTIONAL ABILITIES are not “left behind”. No Teacher should have to–daily–walk in to a COMBAT-ZONE. This is EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY. GET INVOLVED in your COMMUNITY! MAHALO/ALOHA

    • Did you read the article? Brittney Diggs has found her place on the mean streets of Mililani. Mililani….where the streets are paved in gold. And when asked , “where you wen grad?” the expected answer is a university, not a high school.

      • She is an outstanding teacher. She comes from Marist College in NY. Marist turns out the best Special Education teachers in the country and Hawaii is fortunate to get quite a few of them.

        • Using her placement, I am making a point about the community, not Brittney. New teachers often refer to placement on the Leeward side as a “sentence” rather than a placement. When their sentence is up, they leave. It is also telling that Mililani chose to not find a highly qualified sped teacher on island.

        • Gee sjean, you don’t know much about teacher recruitment do you? Any idea how many SPED teachers there are at MHS? (BTW: the SPED department at MHS is comprised primarily of locally trained teachers and Educational Assistants. I was just pointing out that tiny Marist College has somehow found the recipe for turning out wonderful SPED teachers. We would do well to copy them.) The student population eligible under IDEA is about 12%.

          (Info about every school is available at the HIDOE ARCH site. It costs about two mouse clicks) Yes Mililani Complex is very popular with teachers. We have a very active and supportive community with high aspirations for their children. Each transfer period we have a lot of teachers applying for positions. Pretty much all of the teachers have Master’s degrees and many teachers in the complex have subject-area doctorates. Complex-wide, the teachers are generally enthusiastic, put in very long hours that are far above what is contractually required, and care very much for kids.

          If I had my way, every complex would look like Mililani.

        • cello, you’re proving my point. new teachers assigned to leeward schools “flee” to places like Mililani. The fact that many are local further emphasizes this theory of flight. Not all of them started their career at MHS. Also, Brummel was always sure to cherry pick the cream of the crop. Unless you are a football coach, this practice continues. When the transfer period begins, MHS administration is as good as any at “hiding” desirable teaching lines to protect their newbies. If Brittney’s line was so great for her, why was no qualified local teacher offered her line during the transfer period? Probably because it wasn’t advertised in an honest way.

        • Ok, one last… She is a tenured teacher in that line. It doesn’t have to be advertised. (and I’ve never seen a Principal that didn’t want to hire the most highly qualified teacher for any position)

    • In my case, Bottineau, ND. Hugs her Palani. KS is interested in me as an indigenous educator but I might also consider DOE. It is nice to be wanted!

  • The DOE has been recruiting teachers for decades. Then they put the 22 year old and in the toughest schools because the current teachers transfer out as soon as possible. Cultural and financial shock does them in.

    • Agree, hiring teachers from the mainland has been a long standing practice, it is not brand new news. By the way this practice exists for many other professions here in Hawaii. For one we do not train enough new teachers here. SPED teachers are especially in short supply and part of this are the HSTA rules that do not allow them to be paid more than regular ed. teachers. Part of the solution may be to raise the pay but this should come internally from the DOE (and State Govt. overall) by cutting the overhead, improving processes, and better competent management (in short “re-engineering State govt.) Funds should not come from raising taxes.

  • When the teachers picketed the Legislature a month or so ago demanding a 1% increase in the sales tax so they could increase their salaries, they said the salaries were consistent with salaries on the mainland but the problem was our high cost of living. The Teachers Union should go after the problem and picket our congressional delegation (if we have one???) to repeal the Jones Act. And, picket the Governor to have the law repealed as unconscionable.

    • If you pay Hawaii teachers well there will be an abundance of teacher applicants. This is so simple to see. Who would want to work for $45k ? The Police make $65k to start without any required higher education. There is always an abundance of applicants for the Police Department. Why? Because of the attractive starting pay and benefits. Wake up Legislatures, General public and DOE!!!

      • Hello…Police recruits know what they’re getting into for their service. The DOE gestapo makes hiring very unfriendly and never considers making the employee happy. Lots of people work jobs because they are treated well and Management”cares” Money is just the union excuse. No amount of money will increase retention in such a contentious atmosphere as the DOE

  • Who wants to teach where the pay isn’t that good and the type of students that they have to put up with in some schools. Plus living here is so expensive.

  • IRT “The DOE is looking to fill vacancies in special education”. Why??? One reason is because there are more students with special needs. Some DOE schools have over 20% mix of special needs. Why??? The State Department of Health should run a very through epidemiological study that is tied to the increasing exposure to chemicals in our society today and the neurological consequences of those chemicals. I know that the EPA and FDA are supposed to be on top of those things …. but are they??? The numbers [the reality check] are calling very loudly for some answers. And of course there is the huge variable of lobby money that increasingly seems to affect what the government does &/or does not do. Just think about it … is there a societal trend?

  • If we could just get the BOE/DOE/HSTA to clear out their crushing, over priced layers of bureaucracy, mismanagement, duplication, we could clear so much more money to put back in to education. Even with all our “Star Trek” Information Technology progress these bureaucracies have yet to modernize and right size. Still depending on shuffling paper, weeks to get work done when it can be done in days.

    Clean up the Jurassic educational bureaucracy and bring the Nei into the real world.

  • There will ALWAYS be a teacher shortage as long as the pay does not match the high cost of living in Hawaii. The state legislature has to give the DOE more money so they can raise pay for teachers. This is simple math, but I guess most of the legislators can’t figure it out because they are so poorly educated themselves.

      • Exempt from State Tax? This will be taking monies away from the State coffers which is same as giving the teachers a pay raise. This will be a long shot…do not hold your breath! The legislators and general public do not appreciate and value teachers and education.

  • The turnover at the DOE is too high in rural communities. The DOE should hire locally and work to reduce the turnover. Schools in some neighborhoods don’t have openings until someone retires or dies.

    • Local education programs, the best of which is UH Manoa, just don’t provide enough qualified teachers annually to meet the need. This year, it’s projected to be about 1600. Additionally, it takes about five years for a teacher to really become maximally effective. (more or less depending on the individual)

  • Thinking inside the box, as DOE and the state have for decades. You want education (well maybe we don’t), you need teachers, you need teachers, you have to compete for them at the national level. Also as any business will tell you, treat your employees well and they will stay and help the bottom line. Treat them poorly and they go elsewhere or retire in place.

    I Hawaii, we seem to think that teachers are lucky to teach in our schools. The only thing we have going is our weather and we have been getting by on this for years. Time to face future and do right by our keiki.

  • Is that was why we say we MAKE MORE campaign ??? then, we wonder why we are so materialistic /short term .. We “earn more implies personal effort and puts the student interest primary or at lease on equal terms to the possible teacher…come guys think longer term …also we can not be always pragmatic with people/human interactions teachers need to have a thread with all students that is “culture ” ..aloha

  • The State should institute a fee to all students enrolled in public education. This will make most parents and students wanting to get their monies worth because payment is being made. If families are unable to pay, students/families can work it off in lieu of money. This will foster the notion that nothing is free.

  • The persistent need to recruit new K-12 teachers is symptomatic of deeper issues. The problem isn’t recruiting but the conditions that create chronic shortages. As many commenters have said, pay is an issue. But it’s not the only — or even the most critical — issue. The DOE system is broken and has been for the last few decades. Treating symptoms such as recruitment will only prolong the madness. Current DOE administrative bureaucracy, goals, policies, governance, and procedures are woefully outdated. As other commenters have suggested, they simply perpetuate the existing problems. As a result, our per-pupil spending is among the highest (17th) in the nation (Hawaii’s public school budget is $1.9 billion) while our public schools rank 4th lowest in the country in terms of perceived excellence (2014 Gallup survey of residents). There’s a huge disconnect between input and output. In other words, we’re not getting our money’s worth. One area that begs for an audit is the actual amount that trickles down to the classrooms. Why is air-conditioning still an issue? Classrooms are too hot for learning. Why is so little trickling down to immediately alleviate this critical problem? Where is the money going? At least one commenter argues that the DOE is top heavy with administrators. If this is the case, then the bureaucracy needs to be dismantled to free up funds to address conditions that directly impact learning. In short, low teacher retention and poor student achievement may be a function of intolerable working and learning conditions — conditions that are directly attributable to ineffective administrative policies.

  • The Advertiser used to report the names of mainland recruiting companies that “specialized” in Hawaii teachers AND salaries offered. Special ED, Felix decree, contract teachers? Auwe. You could look it up. In the Star-Advertiser “morgue”.

    • Mainland recruiting is now done in multiple cities by teams of Principals who have been trained using the Ventures program. It personalizes the process and the applicants get a much better picture of the pluses and minuses of moving to Hawaii.

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