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Initiative recruits, retains math and science teachers

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Some math and science teachers will get a $5,000 boost in their pay this year through a state initiative aimed at making it easier to recruit and retain teachers in schools that are rural, serve high-poverty students or have low test scores.

“Superintendents from every corner of New Mexico have told us they need a way to get more math and science teachers into their rural areas,” Gov. Susana Martinez said at a Monday news conference. “They say they need these teachers in their local classrooms to prepare their students for success.”

School districts often struggle to recruit math and science teachers because people who are skilled in those areas are lured into significantly higher paying private-sector jobs.

Fred Trujillo, the superintendent of Pecos Independent Schools, said that problem is compounded in rural districts.

“We have to compete, not only with larger districts that have more amenities to offer teachers, but we also compete with business and industry that continue to lure these quality individuals away from education,” Trujillo said. “Salaries sometimes are the determiner when trying to get these people into our district.”

So far, the state Public Education Department has awarded about $550,000 in stipends – enough to cover 110 teachers in 14 school districts and two charter schools. To be eligible, teachers must be licensed to teach science or math at the middle or high school level.

More than $600,000 remains for a second round of awards. The initiative is funded through a $1.25 million legislative appropriation.

Of the 110 teachers who will receive stipends from this round of funding, 75 agreed to remain at their current schools for at least two years. The other 35 transferred to new, hard-to-staff schools and agreed to stay there for at least two years.

The districts that received funds are Artesia, Central Consolidated, Cloudcroft, Cuba, Gallup-McKinley, Hobbs, Jal, Jemez Mountain, Lovington, Mesa Vista, Mountainair, Pecos, Peñasco and Questa. Awards also went to Chama Valley Independent School and Estancia Valley Classical Academy. Awards range from $10,000 in several districts to a high of $270,000 for Hobbs.

State education chief Hanna Skandera said the PED was able to fund every district that applied in this round. Districts have until Sept. 13 to apply for the remaining funds.

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