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Area superintendents look for solutions amid teacher drought

Across Oklahoma, superintendents from the smallest districts to the largest continue to contend with an ongoing teacher shortage that shows no signs of slowing.

More than 30,000 teachers have left the profession in Oklahoma since 2013, according to the 2018 Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Teacher Supply and Demand report. That’s an average loss of 10 percent of the state teacher workforce. To help combat that loss, district administrators have had to increasingly turn to alternative and emergency certification options in order to put teachers in the classroom.

That’s the case even in smaller districts, like Cache and Elgin, where populations continue to boom, the student body continues to increase and the number of qualified teachers continues to dwindle. As the school year winds down and faculty, staff, students and parents make decisions for where they will be in the fall, administrators face a tough road ahead.

“We’re no different than anyone else,” said Chad Hance, Cache Public Schools superintendent. “We’re finding teachers are hard to come by. Right now, it’s the time of the year where people are moving on and making changes. We’re having vacancies and we’re not wanting to waste time.”

The school’s job board might look a little slim right now, but that will change soon enough. Hance said the Cache Public Schools district faces a revolving door of incoming teachers and outgoing teachers — many of whom leave the district for better options, either by teaching in neighboring states that offer or more money or by abandoning the profession all together. And much like the rest of the state, Hance said finding qualified teachers to fill those vacancies becomes harder by the year.

“Five to 10 years ago, when you had an elementary teaching position, you’d have a stack of applications 3 inches tall,” he said. “You almost grit your teeth because you have so many good applicants, who do you choose? Now, you’ve seen those applicant numbers dwindle and the applicant pool get smaller. You start going, ‘we just need to find one good one.’ Instead of having that stress of who you pick, you’re just trying to find one.”

The Lawton Constitution

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