St. Louis district makes changes amid teacher shortage

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis schools are trying a new approach to hiring teachers as Missouri districts face a teacher shortage.

St. Louis Public Schools opened a staff recruitment office last year to address issues in the hiring process that district officials say has likely contributed to the large turnover rate, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. It's typical to have 100 or more teaching vacancies during the school year, district officials said.

District officials hope the office helps them be smarter about searching for and selecting teachers. There was previously no set standard for hiring across schools.

"If we're not selecting the right person in the first place, of course retention's going to be a problem," said Anna Westlund, the district's recently appointed director for recruitment and a former principal.

Westlund said the office screens all applications within 48 hours. Candidates are first interviewed by phone, before meeting with principals in person and teaching a sample lesson.

Hamilton Elementary School Principal Starlett Frenchie said salary may also be a factor. The median salary for Hamilton staff during the 2016-2017 school year was about $39,000.

Classroom environment and changes to the student discipline policy may also play a role, Frenchie said. The district halted out-of-school suspensions for kindergartners through second-graders last year as a way to keep students learning in class. Frenchie then lost all of her teachers for those grades.

"Teachers are coming out of college," Frenchie said. "They're not coming from a place where they're equipped to deal with some of these social-emotional traumas that we experience in urban education. As a result, it tends to create traumatized adults."

Frenchie said her teachers could use additional resources to meet the policy's demands, such as training on how to handle distressed or unruly children.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com


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