TUSD scrambling to hire teachers
Arizona Daily Star
Aug. 16, 2007


Amphi, Sunnyside hit less hard by statewide shortage

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles

The Tucson Unified School District is short dozens of teachers as it once again faces what has become an annual teaching shortage.

There were 119 classroom teaching positions open as TUSD started school on Tuesday, Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer said.
By Wednesday afternoon, thanks to a last-minute hiring spree, that number dropped to between 60 and 80, he said. The open teaching positions are being covered by substitutes and some retirees until they can be filled permanently, he said.
The district has another 17 openings for counselors and instructional coaches and project specialists and 24 for bus drivers, though 14 drivers have been hired and will be trained by next week, said Karen Bynum, a spokeswoman for the district.
"Not enough teachers are graduating from college each year," she said. "We're working hard to fill the positions. We go to a lot job fairs and we recruit hard, but it's tough to keep up."
Last year, TUSD started its fall semester down 130 teachers, Bynum said.
The problem is evenly spread throughout the district Tucson High Magnet School is missing the most teachers with seven vacancies, she said.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said teacher shortages are rampant across the state, particularly in rural and poverty-stricken urban areas, as well as in math, science and special-education positions.
While TUSD's shortage mirrors the statewide trend of teacher shortages, the Sunnyside School District and Amphitheater Public Schools aren't facing as extensive shortages.
Amphi serving about 16,000 students has 23 teacher vacancies across the district, said Todd Jaeger, Amphi's assistant to the superintendent.
Sunnyside with about 17,000 students has 16 unfilled teacher positions, said Anna Maiden, the district's administrative director of human resources. Last year, Sunnyside started school with 20 teacher vacancies, Maiden said.
While TUSD is short more than 60 teachers, the district serves around 57,000 students, Bynum said.
"The fact that we are a smaller district than others likely helps a lot," Maiden said. "The last time Sunnyside had a major teacher shortage was about five years ago."
Sunnyside hired 186 new teachers during the spring and summer, Maiden said.
Twenty-nine of those were hired to teach math, science and special-education classes using an incentive program that gave them a signing bonus of about $1,500, said Mary Grace Wendel, Sunnyside's director of employee services.
Amphi also offers an incentive-based program for new hires, but as opposed to a signing bonus, they get a permanent pay raise, Jaeger said.
Starting pay at Amphi is set at $32,500 a year, but math and special-education teachers can start at as much as $36,500, Jaeger said. Amphi also raises the offered pay for positions that go unfilled for long periods of time, Jaeger said.
TUSD, meanwhile, has no incentive-based program in place for new hires, but the district is currently in contract negotiations with the Tucson Education Association, the district's teachers union, said governing board member Alex Rodriguez.
"I don't know if incentives will be added or not, but the district does want to be competitive with others in the city," he said.
In an effort to alleviate the teacher shortage, TUSD is considering recruiting teachers from out of state, Bynum said.
Officials at Sunnyside and Amphi said they already are recruiting out of state and working with universities in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest to find teachers.
But TUSD is saving money while putting some substitutes in place of the missing teachers.
The base daily pay for substitute teachers is around $75 a day, Bynum said. Retirees filling in vacancies make about $121.05 a day, she said.
TUSD's base pay for a new teacher with no experience starts at $32,000 a year or about $123 a day, Bynum said.
● Contact reporter Nathan Olivarez-Giles at 307-0579 or nolivarezgiles@azstarnet.com.