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Monday, September 10, 2012

The Good, the Bad - and the Future?

Three days of school have passed us by already!

We're off to a quick start. The opening days have gone well, and relatively smooth considering the large number of changes we have experienced in our staff. Although we anticipated two resignations and one retirement at the conclusion of the last school year, we ended up with several unexpected changes. Two additional teachers and a teaching assistant resigned to accept positions in other districts. Since two of those departures occurred in late August, we scrambled to fill positions prior to the opening day of school. These changes resulted in a new K-12 Art teacher; a new 7-12 French teacher; a new 9-12 English teacher; a new 9-12 Science teacher; and a new 9-12 Math teacher. We also have a substitute K-12 Guidance Counselor due to a maternity leave. Since one of the teaching assistants was hired to the Math position, we ended up with two vacant positions for teaching assistants and they were both filled by people with special education teaching certificates. The lone remaining need we have now involves addressing a large number of learners in Kindergarten that warrants staff support for the teacher.

The analysis of an object or concept as either good or bad is contingent on the perception and values held by those analyzing the issue. Such is the case relative to the search and selection process we engaged in response to the vacancies we filled this summer.

The good news about all of these personnel changes is that we were able to select candidates from a very large pool of applicants for each post. Budget cuts have ravaged many public school districts throughout our state and nation and dramatically increased the number of available teachers. These school budget reductions left far fewer districts hiring teachers than in years past. From the vantage point of our school district, the ability to exploit the saturated market was a great opportunity. We examined a rich and deep pool of candidates as we filled the open positions. As a result, we were confident in all of our choices and even hired several teachers with valuable experience and training.

The bad news is that the number of people submitting applications has swelled in recent years due to an unfortunate by-product of the continued ill health of the national, state, and regional economy. That is, the reductions in the teaching staff of many schools tightening their budgets has increased the number of unemployed certified teachers searching for jobs. Also, the decision by many schools to not fill all teaching vacancies, and instead disperse learners in other classes to simultaneously decrease staff and increase class size (or eliminate programs), has accounted for fewer openings when teachers retire or resign. On top of all that, colleges in the area (and elsewhere) continue to manufacture a steady stream of graduates bearing degrees in education.

While the supply and demand imbalance is a benefit to us here and now in Green Island, in the "bigger picture," the field of education loses overall.In the long term, increased class sizes and depleted instructional programming will eventually produce the potential for negative consequences for learners everywhere.

And finally, it what could be an ironic twist in the years ahead, we may find the situation reversed in due time. The supply of teachers will diminish once the number of aspiring teachers is reduced in colleges because the significant and growing amount of unemployed teachers will dissuade people from choosing education as a college major. If and when the economy improves in one form or another, the demand for teachers will surge to recover from the recent and continuing losses in staff and programs. Between retirements and laid off teachers who have opted to move on into other careers.

If you work long enough in virtually any career you will experience swings of the pendulum that reflect fluctuations in economic, financial, and political conditions in the state or nation. This has been true in education regarding a variety of issues such as assessments, standards, codes of conduct, instructional practices, curricula, and hiring patterns. I'll leave it for the economists who study education to more clearly and accurately forecast the future of education - but I'll wager a safe bet and claim that our present situation will likely yield negative consequences in the not so distant future.

However, at this point in time, The Heatly School of Green Island will move forward with our reconstituted staff and seek to continue our progress, and hope for improved overall conditions in public school education in the years ahead.

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