Education Beat: Staff shortage in Flint schools at ‘critical’ stage

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By Harold C. Ford

“Teachers walk away”

—Joyce Ellis McNeal, Chair, Flint Board of Education

The central issue at a four-hour Flint Board of Education (FBOE) full committee meeting on Aug. 10 was the “critical” shortage of applicants to fill staff vacancies in the district — primarily teachers.

Flint officials said more than 40 positions are currently unfilled with qualified full-time staff. Joyce Ellis-McNeal, president of the FBOE, said 47 positions were vacant.

Karen Christian, president of United Teachers of Flint, in a statement provided to East Village Magazine, said, “The United Teachers of Flint…are very concerned about the critical shortage of teachers in Flint Community Schools (FCS). Our children deserve to have certified, highly qualified teachers teaching them every day. …These staffing shortages are having a negative impact on student success, especially our students who need extra support inside and outside the classroom.

May 2022 FBOE meeting. (Photo by Tom Travis)

However, the FBOE refused a proposal from the central administration to create a new “recruiter post” whose task would be to fill vacancies in the district. Only Linda Boose, Secretary, and Allen Gilbert, Administrator, voted in favor of the proposal. “No” votes were cast by: Ellis-McNeal; Laura MacIntyre, Treasurer; and Chris Del Morone, Assistant Secretary/Treasurer. Absent were Danielle Green, Director, and Carol McIntosh, Vice President, who left the meeting early. A minimum of four votes is required for the adoption of a proposal on the panel of seven members.

Flint students began showing up to class the week of August 1. Flint adopted a “balanced schedule” starting with the 2019-20 school year. A balanced schedule includes an earlier start, later finish, and more frequent breaks during the school year.

Continuous resignations and retirements

At the same August 10 board meeting, documents provided to the public said 15 positions had recently been vacated by Flint Community Schools (FCS) staff, taking with them 209 years of combined educational experience. in Flint schools.

At the same meeting, only one new hire was announced, a new teacher assigned to Durant-Tuuri-Mott Elementary School.

During the last years, EVM reported the continued attrition of FCS staff when such information was made available by school officials. Hundreds of employees left the district, taking with them more than 2,000 years of FCS experience.

Doyle-Ryder Grade 1 teacher Kim Montini talks to her class on opening day as they sit at their desks eating breakfast which is served every morning. Montini taught in the FCS district for 26 years and taught in Doyle-Ryder for five years. (Photo by Tom Travis)

“Teachers are drifting away,” McNeal said bluntly.

“They’re leaving the district,” Gilbert agreed. “No one really wants to come to our district because we don’t have the money to pay them.”

More than one FBOE member has alluded to “poaching” by neighboring school districts that might offer better pay and benefits. “We’re surrounded by competition,” McNeal said.

Palliative measures

In recent years, teacher shortages have been so pronounced that “provisional” teachers without full certification have been hired to fill classroom positions while other school personnel, such as teacher assistants , have seen their contracts restructured allowing them to replace absent teachers.

FCS currently offers newly hired teachers a $3,000 signing bonus; $5,000 is offered to newly hired directors.

Recent job fairs have been a failure, according to FCS Superintendent Kevelin Jones. “We weren’t able to hire from that pool of candidates,” Jones said. “We had a lot of applicants who weren’t qualified.”

FCS Superintendent Kevin Jones. (Photo by Tom Travis)

“We don’t usually get applicants,” confirmed Sharita Galloway, executive director of human relations.

A recent Facebook post by McNeal may have encouraged unqualified applicants to apply. It said: “Anyone who has obtained a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree or both is qualified to perform any task given to him in relation to education.”

“Recruitment efforts due to understaffing are essential, if not paramount, to the success of Flint students,” Christian said.

Foregone planning periods: additional costs for the district

Jones said many categories of employed staff are currently being diverted from their assigned positions to cover classes without teachers. This includes paraprofessionals, interventionists, and other teachers who sacrifice their scheduled planning periods.

According to Christian, “teachers deserve to have their planning time every day without the frequent requests to cover other classrooms due to understaffing. Planning time is an essential component of student success in the classroom. …Sometimes teachers have no planning time.

Students at Flint’s Freeman Elementary School. (Photo by Tom Travis)

District leaders have said the practice of having staff already employed to fill vacant positions is detrimental to an already beleaguered FCS financial profile, as replacement salaries must be paid on top of the contract salary.

Teachers who give up planning periods to fill in for vacant positions are paid to do their planning at home after hours. “It’s costing us,” Jones said. “We cannot continue to work like this.

Ellis-McNeal estimated that FCS paraprofessionals — members of Service Employees International Union Local 517 — earn an underpayment of $25 to $30 an hour on top of their paraprofessional rate of $11 per hour.

“We need to reduce staff”

A larger issue exacerbating ongoing staffing shortages may have been addressed by MacIntyre: “We need to downsize this district,” she said.

An audit report from Plante Moran Cresa (PMC) to the FCS Board in January 2022 recommended “resizing the district”. They told the FBOE at the time that the district only needed four basic buildings.

FCS currently operates eight elemental buildings: Brownell; Doyle/Ryder; Durant-Tuuri-Mott; Eisenhower; Free man; Nicocup; Pierce; and Potter.

PMC said the loss of students in recent years has led to underutilization of school buildings at all levels. The company projected that FCS enrollment would continue to decline to 2,344 students by the 2030-31 school year.

Shortage of teachers elsewhere, perhaps

Teacher shortages caused by burnout, low salaries, oversized classes and the pandemic have been reported for years according to universities.com. .”

Michigan was not on a list of the “10 states most affected by teacher shortages,” according to Sarah Harris’ report.

A survey conducted earlier this year by the National Education Association, as reported by Nation News, found that 55% of educators planned to leave the profession sooner than they expected due to the pandemic. And a report by the National Council for Education Statistics found that the pandemic caused 61% of school vacations.

Handmade signs by parents and students at the Flint Board of Education meeting on Wednesday. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Some headlines cry out for the shortage of teachers. CNN: Teaching profession “in crisis”. Washington Post: “America faces a catastrophic shortage of teachers.”

But Jill Barshay, in an August 22 article for the Hechinger Reportquotes Dan Goldhaber, labor economist at the American Institute for Research: “Attrition is definitely on the rise, but it’s not a mass exodus of teachers.”

Goldhaber estimated that in a school of 1,000 students, there is on average half an unfilled vacancy in the fall of 2021. He told Barshay that the number of teachers is in line with historical trends.

On August 4, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education released a national survey of more than 800 schools and found that each school had, on average, about three unfilled teaching positions as of June 2022.

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The remaining Flint Board of Education meetings in 2022 are scheduled for: August 17, September 14 and 21; October 12 and 19; November 9 and 16; December 14 and 21. They can be viewed remotely or in person. Meetings are held at the ALA Building, 1602 S. Averill Ave., Flint, MI 48503. Further details are available on the FCS website.

EVM Education Beat reporter can be contacted at [email protected]

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