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Kansas City schools are boosting efforts to fill teacher, staff shortages before classes start

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Jodi Fortino
/
KCUR 89.3
The Kansas City, Kansas Public School District held a hiring fair in an effort to fill teaching, substitute, paraprofessional and instructional aid positions ahead of the school year.

Kansas City area students are heading back to school this month. Meanwhile, school districts are pushing to hire enough staff amid a national teacher shortage.

Students are returning to school in just a few weeks, but Kansas City area school districts are still pushing to hire more staff before they open their doors.

The effort comes after Kansas started the summer facing a severe teacher shortage, with about 1,400 teaching jobs unfilled.

The Kansas City, Kansas Public School District said it needed to fill 30 to 50 teaching positions as of Wednesday. It also needs more substitutes, paraprofessionals and instructional aids.

Eric Tyler, a human resources recruiter for the district, says that number wasn’t nearly as high in pre-pandemic years as districts face a shrinking pool of candidates.

“There are more school districts than ever before trying to identify talent that could be a good fit for their school district,” Tyler says.

One way it’s trying to fill those roles is by attracting retirees back to full time work. Tyler says if they return, retired teachers can continue to receive their pension benefits on top of a $55,000 salary.

“It's a really big benefit for us too, because the learning curve for a retired teacher returning back to the classroom is really very small, because they've already been effective teachers within our district prior,” Tyler says.

Another way the district is boosting recruitment efforts is by offering sign-on bonuses. All full-time new hires will receive a $1,500 bonus and all part-time new hires will receive a $750 bonus after staying on for 90 days.

At a hiring event on Thursday, applicants piled into the district office to explore different openings for the school year.

Waiting in line was Willie Vaughn, who says he was getting tired of his construction job at 55 years old. As a Wyandotte High School graduate, he says he wanted to give back to his community.

“There’s a lot of great young people here in the community, but they don't get enough people to support them, to hang out with them,” Vaughn says. “I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I've overcome, and even just sharing my story with some of them may turn the light on in their life.”

kckhiringfairattendee.jpg
Jodi Fortino
/
KCUR 89.3
Willie Vaughn, a Wyandotte High School graduate, says he was looking for a position that would let him give back to his community.

Since his current job pays well, Vaughn says the sign-on bonus wasn't a huge factor in his decision. That was also the case for other attendees at the hiring event, who wanted to help out the school district they once attended.

Over the past two weeks, Tyler says they’ve accepted about 25 offers for certified staff for the upcoming school year. He says the district is also working on a long-term substitute plan in case it doesn’t have enough teachers the day school starts.

On the other side of the state line, Kansas City Public Schools scheduled a hiring event on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Manual Career & Technical Center.

The district was looking for positions in the Head Start program, security, instructional support, child nutrition, custodial, athletics and building substitutes. Like KCKPS, the school district is also recruiting retired educators.

Jorge Fuller, a district HR recruiter for the district, says the school district has about 60 open certified positions and 100 open classified roles.

He was hopeful the hiring fair would help the community to be present in KCPS schools.

“You can just come in and sign up and we'll try to get you the opportunity to be interviewed and get everything processed so that you can walk out with an actual offer,” Fuller says. “The objective is saying that we want you in our schools, we want your students in our schools so we need to have you there working as well.”

The district has already seen some of its recruitment efforts pay off, with 20 bus drivers currently in training after it announced a $2,000 signing bonus. The district says it’s the highest number of trainees its transportation team remembers having in early August.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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