APS makes gains in right-sizing - Albuquerque Journal

APS makes gains in right-sizing

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Students board a school bus at Los Ranchos Elementary School in March. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Albuquerque Public Schools had to cut hundreds of positions last year to get where it is now.

But, now, with elementary, middle and high school teacher vacancies in the double digits, officials say the district is in a better place as it heads into the new school year.

“We’re looking pretty good, I’m excited,” Human Resources Chief Todd Torgerson said. “Normally, our vacancy rate is significantly higher than we are now.”

Several factors play into that, he said, including budget cuts, position eliminations and a drop in the overall number of teacher retirements.

Over 200 positions were cut last year, he said, which has, in part, meant consolidating students into larger classes and moving teachers around. A similar number retired last year, he said, noting that was a significant drop from retirement numbers in 2016, which were closer to 400.

There are currently 38 open positions for elementary school teachers, 27 open positions for middle school teachers and 19 open positions in high schools, Torgerson said.

While APS wants to get those positions filled eventually, Torgerson said the district will use long-term substitute teachers to plug the gap for now.

Kelly Education, an education staffing company that has worked with APS for several years, filled 89% of the district’s vacancies with substitutes last year, Strategic Account Manager Tricia Davis estimated.

There were around 200 open positions for general education teachers at this time last year, Torgerson said.

Still, with 122 positions currently open, the district needs special education teachers, Torgerson said. That said, the situation has improved from this time last year, when the district had 276 open positions.

APS is also “always short teachers, especially in special education,” Superintendent Scott Elder noted.

APS also needs such staff as custodians, Torgerson said. And Royce Binns, Student Transportation Services executive director, said the district still needs around 40 bus drivers.

In both cases, increased salaries – achieved in part through negotiations between APS and local unions, a spokeswoman said – are expected to help. Now, entry-level custodians are paid $15 per hour and bus drivers’ wages can begin around $20 per hour.

In April, Legislative Finance Committee analysts said APS needed to right-size, finding that, while student enrollment has waned over the years, the district had hundreds more teachers and staff than it should have had.

Elder said APS will look at consolidating schools in the coming year, but did not provide details about where that may happen. He noted the district has “gotten to a point where there’s just not a lot of excess to trim.”

Extended learning time students start school on Thursday, according to the APS website. Students in schools on a traditional calendar have their first day next Wednesday.

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