Despite national educator shortage, WCPS fills 100 percent of instructor jobs
(Sept. 1, 2022) Heading into the 2022-23 school year, the Worcester County Public Schools system is nearly 100 percent staffed, and that’s despite the teacher shortage that is affecting the rest of the country.
Many, including teachers, are blaming the shortage on pay, added responsibilities from the covid-19 pandemic, and a lack of backing from administrators to teachers when it comes to instruction.
“There’s certainly a teacher shortage across the nation,” Dr. Dwayne Abt, the chief operations and human relations officer for Worcester Schools said last week. “It’s getting worse all the time.”
But in this county, he said, the district has been able to fill all the certified positions for the upcoming school year. These positions include teachers, principals, additional administrators and other personnel.
In terms of service providers – positions like social workers and speech pathologists – the district has less than a handful of positions open.
Abt said there is a social worker position that the district pays for using a grant that still needs to be filled as well as a speech pathologist position that opened over the summer, or as he said, a little late in the game for the upcoming school year.
Abt and the district are a bit lucky compared to neighboring counties like Wicomico and Somerset because it has a few things working in their favor.
For example, Worcester Public Schools is one of the highest performing school districts in the state. When people check out the job openings and investigate the district’s reputation, Abt explained, they will see all the schools are high performing, from the north end to the south on the lower shore.
Also working in the district’s favor is it only takes 16 steps, or years, for a teacher to reach the highest earning potential, not including cost-of-living adjustments.
The neighboring counties have 19, 20, and 25-step pay scales, though when it comes to salary, all three districts are competitive with no more than a $2,000 difference between positions, Abt said.
The final piece that makes Worcester attractive for teachers is the beach, Abt said.
“Lately, a lot of folks have been coming from the Baltimore area who have second homes here,” he said. “They’re to the point in their career that they want to get out of the city and to the beach.”
In March, the district gets an early start in recruiting for the following school year. The push kicks off with a job fair, though the school district maintains good relationships with all the area universities to get an idea of how many students are in the education program.
Along with those relationships, the district offers those college students internships, or student teaching opportunities.
There is also a program at Worcester Technical High School that students can enroll in as early as sixth grade and complete a series of classes in the teaching field. When they graduate, they walk with several college credits toward teaching programs.
With a teacher shortage affecting the rest of the country, it is only a matter of time that it could come to Worcester County. School officials are aware of that but continue to put proactive procedures in place for recruiting and retaining staff.
“I’ve got everybody except one here in Worcester County Schools,” Abt said of this upcoming school year. “We are very blessed here.”