Bladen County Schools looking to bounce back after having highest percentage of teaching vacancies in North Carolina for 2020-2021 school year

Bladen County Schools looking to bounce back after having highest percentage of teaching vacancies in North Carolina for 2020-2021 school year
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 10:36 PM EDT
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BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Bladen County tops the list when it comes to needing teachers. The school district had the highest percentage of teaching vacancies in North Carolina last school year. Since then, Superintendent Dr. Jason Atkinson has filled nearly a dozen positions, but there are still about 26 openings.

“We want to do all we can to start the next academic year with the least amount of vacancies as possible,” Dr. Atkinson said. “I just hope that we can obviously get over the hurdle and stay on top of this. It’s definitely a widespread problem, not just Bladen County. I think it’s a regional issue and a state issue and I would even think national because I’ve seen it in the news where it’s been difficult.”

The pandemic played a role with many teachers retiring because of the virus-- but the school district couldn’t find an equal number of new ones.

“It put us in a situation where there were some positions that we had to do long-term substitutes early on in the school year and some of us had to maintain because of finding folks to do that,” Dr. Atkinson said.

The Bladen County Board of Education recently approved a new recruitment and retention plan for the 2022-2023 school year that includes new pay incentives, which Dr. Atkinson hopes will help.

“We will be doing sign on bonuses for staff. Depending on their license or status, those can go up to $2,000 with a master’s degree or national board certification. We’re doing a sign on bonus for non-certified staff as well,” Dr. Atkinson said. “We’re doing retention bonuses, a total of $2,000 for full-time employment, $1,000 in the fall and $1,000 in the spring.”

These bonuses will come from ESSER funds.

Dr. Atkinson says the district recently held a job fair and hired six new teachers.

“I’m very optimistic about what I’m seeing right now.”

And while the bonus pay is a positive, Dr. Atkinson acknowledged that there will need to be a long-term plan to keep the incentives going. The school system is calling on the county commissioners to commit to a long-term financial plan to keep teachers in the district.

“That’s why in our request to the county commissioners, in support for the increase in supplement, that we’re wanting to do our part with the dollars that we have and have them join along and partner with us, and not just a one time commitment but that it becomes something we look at from year to year because you’ve got to be able to sustain that because if you just see your effort and stop then you’re not gonna gain that momentum there so being able to sustain that moving forward and potentially help it grow, I think that’s going to helpful too,” Dr. Atkinson said.

There has already been an increased amount of interest, and as college students graduate with teaching degrees this time of year, Dr. Atkinson hopes that interest continues to grow.

“Educators educate everyone else in every other career field, so when you think about other careers, educators, that’s where it starts. We want to make sure that we take care of our folks that work in education. From teachers to teacher assistants, any position, everybody has an impact on the children so we want to do everything we can to advocate for support from the state and national level, as well as our local level,” Dr. Atkinson said. “We’re trying to think of different things outside of the box that could not only help us recruit but to retain personnel.”

Click here to view the current list of BCS job openings.

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