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New Mexico faces shortage of teachers

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

It's a trend states and districts are feeling nationwide: teacher shortages.

And local districts – including the state's largest – are on the hunt to fill positions for the coming 2018-2019 school year. Each district the Journal recently reached out to was trying to fill numerous slots.

U.S. Department of Education data for the just completed 2017-2018 school year showed that teacher shortages were affecting every state in the country.

Now, with schools looking ahead to the coming school year, Albuquerque Public Schools has the highest overall need in the state, with 380 teacher and 90 educational assistant job openings for a student body of about 84,000.

These vacancies mirror what the district has seen during the summer in previous years, according to APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta. She couldn't say how many teachers from the previous school year didn't renew their contracts.

Statewide, Department of Education data showed the biggest gaps to fill were for bilingual, math and science teachers, especially for grades seven to 12.

Armenta said APS has seen a shortage of teachers in those subjects, too, and currently APS is looking for 200 special education teachers and 180 elementary, middle and high school teachers.

Last year for the first time, Armenta said, APS also experienced a need for nurses and counselors, citing competitive science careers in New Mexico and a growing need for mental health services at schools.

APS, Rio Rancho Public Schools, Santa Fe Public Schools and Las Cruces Public Schools shared their openings with the Journal but noted teacher vacancy numbers fluctuate.

• Las Cruces Public Schools: Of its 79 postings, the district's biggest need was for special education teachers, with 21 openings.

• Santa Fe Public Schools: Santa Fe had 84 openings, but the district did not break down the data by subject.

• Rio Rancho Public Schools: Rio Rancho had about 66 open positions, mostly at the secondary level. District spokeswoman Beth Pendergrass said 26 positions were in the application process at the time and were likely to go through, potentially dropping the district's vacancies to 40.

But these districts have thousands of fewer students than APS.

Denver Public Schools is a better numerical comparison to APS, with a student body of about 90,000, according to DPS spokeswoman Jessie Smiley.

Currently, Denver has 160 fewer openings than APS with a total of 220 teacher and teacher leadership – coaches and mentors – positions open, according to data Smiley provided to the Journal.

But like Albuquerque, Denver's hardest-to-fill areas involve math and science, special education and bilingual education. And like the Duke City, Denver's vacancies are about on par with conditions this time last year.

Denver's efforts to recruit teachers echo what Albuquerque is doing.

Both Smiley and Armenta said their districts focus efforts on university partnerships, involvement in teacher preparation programs and hosting in- and out-of-state career fairs.

Armenta said there is not a typical amount of time for a job posting to be up, since it differs by position. But Smiley said most vacancies in Denver are filled within 30 to 60 days of posting, and fewer than 25 percent of the 171 remaining openings have been online for more than 60 days.

Smiley said Denver is “very competitive with compensation of other districts in our state.”

Earlier this month, APS sent a $1.35 billion budget to the state Public Education Department that included a minimum 2.5 percent pay increase for teachers, counselors, school nurses and librarians.

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