By Ann Jantz, wyo4news.com
Rock Springs, Wyoming — Sweetwater County School District #1 is relying on long-term substitutes to fill the teacher vacancies it has not been able to fill.
This situation is not unique to Sweetwater County, however. Other Wyoming districts are in the same boat, with neighboring states enticing teachers away by offering better salaries and benefits and more amenities many of the state’s districts cannot offer.
This message was delivered to the School Board Monday evening. Human Resources Director Nicole Bolton told the trustees the decision to utilize long-term substitutes to teach classes the district has been unable to fill is a decision “not taken lightly.”
Most long-term subs are retired teachers with degrees or college students nearing graduation, and all are interviewed before they are hired, she added.
Bolton noted hiring is preceded by a thorough interview, because “hiring blindly” is a practice that has burned the district in the past.
As to the district’s inability to fill vacant teaching positions, Bolton wants parents to know this is not just a School District #1 problem.
“This is a Wyoming issue,” she said. “Many teachers are going to other places.”
Even the increase to teachers’ base salaries at the end of last year was not enough to attract potential teachers — especially after Utah immediately matched it, Bolton added.
School District #1 currently has 25 open teaching and resource positions.
Trustee Max Mickelson cited recent talks about the Wyoming Legislature targeting education; this is not the time to cut funding, he said.
Trustee George Reedy asked about teacher contracts that were not renewed for the 2019-20 school year. Bolton said the district in some cases must do what is in the best interest of students, and this might mean some contracts do not get renewed.
Bolton said the district will continue the search for qualified teachers to fill the district’s vacant positions. To that end, she and other district administrators plan to attend a number of job fairs in upcoming months “to attack this problem.”