School Districts Struggling With Teacher Shortage

Harrison Central 9th Grade School just added a new pre-Algebra teacher this year - April Adams. Her degree is in Business, but she decided to give teaching a try.

"I think it's really good that I have enough background to come in and fill in a position where they had just a substitute," said April Adams.

Adams is among 35 teachers in the Harrison County School District who are Emergency Certified. That means, they've been granted a one-year license to teach, and must take certain courses throughout the year to be re-hired next year. Those teachers are helping to fill a serious shortage.

"I would describe it as very severe," said Harrison County School Superintendent Henry Arledge. "We don't want to have any one-year license teachers in the district. We feel that a fully-certified teacher would do a better job for us. But then again, we have to have somebody in the classroom."

Arledge says more teachers are retiring or quitting because discipline problems have increased since Katrina, and the test requirements are tougher.

"A lot more pressure then they've had before. And now, the number of people going into the teaching profession is falling off," Arledge said.

He says without the rookie teachers, the district, as well as students, would end up suffering.

"If we didn't have those, we'd be in real trouble," Arledge said. "We would have higher numbers in the classrooms, around 35. We wouldn't meet accreditation standards. It would really put the school district in a bad situation."

Harrison County is not alone.  Some superintendents say they can't recruit enough teachers because of the housing shortage, high insurance costs, and slow recovery from the storm.

Others say their districts don't have a teacher shortage now, but they admit it's been tougher trying to find teachers for certain classes like Gifted, Special Education and Foreign Language.

Arledge expects the problem to get even worse. He believes the answer is to encourage more people, like April Adams, to choose a career in education.

"I like it," Adams said. "I'm glad I'm doing this. I feel I am making a difference, even though I am new at it."

Another way schools are dealing with the teacher shortage is to combine certain classes. But that creates more crowded classrooms, and less one-on-one attention for students.