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JCPS: Current staffing shortage is 'alarming'

A new report released by JCPS Tuesday is causing concern that its teacher shortage may be worse than many thought.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — There are growing concerns following the release of a Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) report during Tuesday's Board of Education meeting

It contains the rolling number of JCPS staff who report to the Board of Education routine personnel actions affecting employment: discharges, leaves of absence, resignations, retirements, suspensions, etc.

According to the report, the school district has lost at least 200 teachers/faculty since the end of the 2021-22 school year. While that number could fluctuate in the coming weeks before JCPS does its final "fifth-day count" of staff, as it stands on July 20, it's accepted 118 certified-teacher resignations and encountered 83 of its personnel retiring. 

Despite the mass-staff exodus, JCPS schools' teacher retention rate is at a nine-year high. During this most recent 2021-22 school year, that rate sat at 97.3% retention. 

Credit: Andrea Ash
Data from Jefferson County Public Schools shows its year-over-year teacher retention rate. This most recent year's retention rate marks a nine-year high.

But no matter the promising data points and high hopes district officials have for the soon-to-be new school year, one thing is hard to ignore.

"It is, it's alarming," JCPS Chief of Human Resources Aimee Green-Webb, Ph.D., said. "It's not that we didn't see that coming."

After two years of schooling during a global pandemic, it's a trend, seen nationwide, trickling down to here in Louisville.

"We're seeing some of that burnout, kind of, show up more so than we have in the past," she said. "Having higher retention during COVID, kind of cushioned us for a time period."

But that period of time has since expired. Green-Webb said the district is urgently looking to fill particular teaching positions: positions in the math and science subjects, special education teaching positions and early childhood education positions.

She described these vacancies as "of most-critical need," to get filled.

That's a task made more difficult by what Green-Webb said is a shrinking pool of teaching candidates coming out of school. 

RELATED: JCPS eyeing former site of failed Passport Health project for new middle school

A 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey found that in the education sector, the ratio of hires for job openings in the 2021-22 school year stood at 0.59 hires for every open position. In comparison that ratio was 1.06 in 2016 and 1.54 in 2010.

"That pool is shrinking nationwide, so we're in competition for that same shrinking pool," Green-Webb said.

That competition is leading the district to beef-up university recruitment efforts. One specific initiative that's been underway since 2019 is the district's partnership with Simmons College of Kentucky to introduce recent graduates and current students to careers in education. 

Efforts span the retention side too. Green-Webb admits that, to be effective in hiring, school officials will need to get innovative in cultivating new strategies.

"Thinking differently about the way we think about school," she said.

Part of this will be utilizing new classroom technology, but also reimagining class schedules for teachers, in order to curb burnout.

Also coming out of Tuesday's meeting, the district announced it will be giving every teacher up to $250 to spend on school supplies as part of a partnership with Amazon Business.

It's just the first few steps for JCPS, heading in the right direction but facing an ongoing battle to keep its teachers.

RELATED: JCPS approves revised COVID-19 health guidance for new school year

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