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Nevada's Clark County Hopes to Lure Retired Educators Back to Teaching


After an all-out national marketing blitz to attract teachers to Clark County, the school district is trying a couple of more ways to fill some of its vacant teaching slots: luring back retirees and offering part-time teaching positions. 

The district's school board is expected to take up a proposal this week to approve hiring retirees for teaching positions in elementary schools.  As of July 13, there were 556 elementary teaching vacancies, in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and grades one through five, according to the district. Of those openings, 108 were in first grade, 105 in second grade and 94 in kindergarten, according to the district.

The district, which includes Las Vegas, is actively courting those who retired since 2011. And the hiring staff is not just looking at former teachers—the district is also hoping that former administrators, including principals, will return to the classrooms, said Staci Vesneske, the district's chief human resources officer.

The district is also giving principals autonomy to offer part-time teaching positions to those who hold teaching licenses and are looking for work. Part-time teachers will teach the equivalent of about three to four periods instead of five at the secondary school level, and they will qualify for full-time benefits, Vesneske said.

'We anticipate that some [retirees] would want to have a regular contract, if they can get one," Vesneske said. "But some of them sub because that's what they like doing—they decide whether they want to work that day or not."

Clark County school district, the nation's fifth largest, has struggled annually to attract enough teachers to fill its vacancies. This year, the district launched a major campaign—Calling All Heroes—to hire about 2,600 teachers for the 2015-16 school year, about 2,000 of whom Vesneske and staff hoped to have in place by September. To date, 1,275 teachers have been hired, ahead of last year's pace by 130, Vesneske said.

"I don't know that we are going to fill 1,000 positions by September, but I can tell you that we are doing everything we can to fill as many of them as possible," she said, adding that the district will continue recruiting throughout the school year. 

Nevada law grants districts leeway to re-hire retirees when a district is suffering a "critical labor shortage," a category that allows the retirees to collect retirement benefits while receiving a salary for the new job.

The Clark County board has traditionally used the "critical labor shortage" allowance for hard-to-fill areas, such as math, science, special education and English, Vesneske said. 

This year, the state also approved a $10 million annual incentive over two years to help school districts attract teachers. In addition to Clark County, the state's second-largest district, Washoe County, has also been aggressively recruiting teachers.

The state incentives can go to newly-hired licensed teachers who work in Title 1 and low-performing schools, and who did not work in the district the previous school year. Clark County will use the money to offer a $5,000 bonus to those who sign on to teach by Aug. 15.

The high number of vacancies in the lower grades is due to the district's growth in those grades; a competitive job market for early education teachers; Nevada's teacher licensing requirements; retirements (500 of them this year as of June 2015); class size reductions; and a shortage of local candidates to meet the need, according to the district.

Clark County is not the only district having a hard time recruiting teachers.  The  Indianapolis Star recently reported that Indiana's school districts were also having a difficult time finding teachers for open positions. The number of licenses for first-time teachers dropped from 16,578 in the 2009-10 school year to 6,174 in the 2013-14 school year, and school district officials told the paper that people have moved away from considering education as a career due to "state funding constraints, testing pressures and a blame-the-teachers mentality." 

In Clark County, the district's alternate-route teacher licensure program is proving to be a reliable source of diverse teacher-candidates during the shortage, Vesneske, said. Teachers in the program must have a bachelor's degree, and they start working as teachers while taking courses that will allow them to gain certification within three years.

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