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Districts Go the Extra Mile To Find Teacher Candidates

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The Los Angeles Unified School District is looking for a few good teachers, and it's going places it's never been to find them.

Now in the second year of a statewide effort to reduce class sizes, the district is recruiting in states such as Pennsylvania for the first time ever and in cities like New York, Boston, Minneapolis, and Miami for the first time in more than a decade in hopes of filling 900 new positions for the fall.

"For the first time, we've had to intensify recruitment," said Michael Acosta, the administrator for employment operations for the district, the nation's second largest.

Los Angeles is not alone. Many districts across the country are going to greater lengths than usual this spring to find qualified teachers for the new school year.

"States have seen an increase of districts going to areas where they know there are supplies of candidates," said Charles Marshall, the executive director of the American Association for Employment in Education, an organization in Evanston, Ill., that works with districts and colleges to place teacher candidates in school jobs.

Even in areas such as Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the Northeast, where the market for teachers is tight, more positions are opening up, Mr. Marshall said.

"There are still a lot of people in the pipeline still looking for their first job," he added.

Usual Demands

Areas with the biggest demand for teachers, in addition to California, include Southern states such as Texas, where there is a constant struggle to find bilingual teachers, and Florida, where student enrollment continues to soar.

"Most students get jobs--if they are willing to go where the jobs are," said Edward Vertuno, the director of student services and student teaching at the Florida State University college of education in Tallahassee. His university had nearly 600 graduates in education this year.

As usual, urban schools nationwide are working to fill positions, and almost everywhere there is a need for more minority applicants.

"In most urban schools, there is well over a 90 percent demand for minorities," said Segun Edwards of Recruiting New Teachers, a Belmont, Mass.-based nonprofit group that promotes teaching as a profession.

Other teaching positions that are traditionally hard to fill include jobs in special education and, to a lesser extent, science and math.

While there are no hard statistics about the number of unfilled teaching positions, U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley estimates a need for 2 million teachers over the next 10 years to replace those who will retire and to keep up with rising enrollments.

In Los Angeles, for example, officials estimate that the 670,000-student system will expand by 50,000 students over the next five years. And in Florida, the 220,000-student Broward County school system is expected to expand by 10,000 students this year.

Broward recruiters each year look locally and outside the state to find the district's new hires--about 1,200 this year.

The district goes to such places as Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as other Southern states, because its local colleges don't always produce enough candidates, said Roger Beaumont, the director of instructional staffing for the district.

Casting a Wide Net

Program changes also can generate new jobs for teachers. In Cleveland, the start of full-day kindergarten in the fall has created a need for 460 new positions, more than double last year's new hires.

"We put together a massive recruiting plan," said Superintendent Richard A. Boyd, who noted that teachers were being laid off when he took over the district two years ago.

The district sent teams statewide and to universities in Alabama, Kentucky, and New York state to look for candidates.

"I'm confident we'll get the folks we want," Mr. Boyd said.

But he added that the district probably will fall short of its hiring goals for minorities and special education teachers.

In addition to making trips around the country, recruiters are using technology to attract candidates. In Los Angeles, as in many other districts, officials are posting job vacancies on the district's World Wide Web site.

"We want to make the maximum use of our money," said Mr. Acosta, whose district will make offers to about 1,200 candidates, with at least half from out of state.

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