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Teacher shortage being addressed, says official

The Colleton County School District is facing a teacher shortage for the coming school year, but local officials say they are currently working to hire as many qualified and certified staff members as possible before the year ends.

As of press deadline this week, the school district has approximately 35 open spots for certified staff members. There are currently “offer letters” being sent to potential candidates, so this number of vacancies stands to decrease soon, according to Cliff Warren, assistant superintendent in the Colleton County School District. An offer letter means the district is extending a job offer to a particular candidate and is awaiting a confirmation. In his position, Warren oversees several areas within the district. A part of his job duties is his leading the charge in filling vacancies and in recruitment for the district.

“Our hope is that we will have every position filled by the fall, prior to the start of the 2018-2019 school year,” he said.

The teacher shortage is particularly difficult in three subjects in Colleton County: Warren says the areas of math, special education and science are the three most critical-needs areas within the local school district. According to him, this teacher shortage is not a problem specific to Colleton County: these three teaching areas, or subjects, are currently facing severe shortages across South Carolina and throughout the nation, he said. “We just don’t have the pool of applicants to pull from that we are used to,” he said.

There are no specific reasons for the teacher shortage. However, in previous interviews with this newspaper, Warren says lower pay, challenging curriculums to teach and daily stress are reasons why he believes teachers are becoming harder to find.

As for the reason for Colleton’s number of open vacancies right now, Warren says the district is also having staff turnover. Additionally, he also says that the amount of people retiring out of the Colleton County School District is a reason for the number of open slots and for the increased need for teachers. “The concern is the amount of qualified applicants that we don’t have, but we are working on that and we do have offer letters out,” he said. Warren adds that several principals of schools in the district are also currently seeking candidates and conducting interviews.

Talk of Colleton’s teacher shortage began at the end of the first semester, when the number of people retiring began to take shape. The district is also still facing a critical bus driver shortage: for the last two consecutive school years, Colleton County has had more than a dozen double runs being held each morning and each afternoon for student pick-up and drop-off. The number of bus drivers coming into the district is still being tallied.