Filling in the blanks

National issue beginning to impact Rockwood
During her 4th Hour ALARP 1 class, language arts teacher Jenny Ingram instructs at the front of the room. Ingram is one of five language arts teachers leaving at the end of this year, and is one of eight teachers who have put in their resignation this school year.
During her 4th Hour ALARP 1 class, language arts teacher Jenny Ingram instructs at the front of the room. Ingram is one of five language arts teachers leaving at the end of this year, and is one of eight teachers who have put in their resignation this school year.
Ammu Lanka

In recent years, the number of teachers leaving education and the number of unfilled job openings in schools has been increasing.

During the 2011-2012 school year, 8% of public school teachers left the profession.

But, in 2020-2021 school year, 12% of public school teachers left according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“Nationally, there [are] less teachers in the pipeline. Less kids are going to college to become teachers,” Steve Hankins, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services said.

So, Hankins said with the same number of job openings as before, but fewer teachers, the nation runs into a supply and demand imbalance.

Currently, Hankins said staffing hasn’t been a major issue in Rockwood, with only some areas presenting problems.

“We’re lucky that we are a sought-after district. People want to work here. We’ve got great kids, great facilities and live in a great area. Districts outside the St. Louis County area have more dire straits when it comes to staffing. But, we are starting to see [difficulties],” Hankins said.

Teaching positions in specialized high school subjects have been difficult to fill.

“We still have good numbers for elementary and middle school positions but [when] you get to high school, especially for world language, math [and] certain sciences, especially physics and chemistry, [it’s] getting very difficult to find applicants,” Hankins said.

Impact at Lafayette

When it comes to resignations at LHS, Associate Principal Mike Franklin said the number of staff members leaving this year doesn’t pose any major problems.

Teachers resign either to go to a different school district or to leave education altogether.

While Franklin notes that the workforce is becoming older leading to more retirements, he said the number leaving each year fluctuates and he doesn’t believe it will have a negative impact for many years.

He also does not see any immediate impact to classes due to LHS openings.

“There [are] going to be very similar numbers of teachers retiring or resigning within the next couple of years,” he said. “I don’t think we’re seeing any variants this year as opposed to last year, and

I don’t foresee anything different for next year or the year after,” he said.

The hiring process for a new teacher can take anywhere from two to six weeks Franklin said.

Changes to Language Arts

One department seeing big changes in personnel is the Language Arts Department that will have five teachers leaving at the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

Language Arts Department Chair Lisa Donovan said with so many openings, the decline in applicants to fill those positions has been highlighted more than ever.

“There [have been] fewer candidates per job opening in the last 10 years,” she said.

Donovan also said LHS has had fewer student teachers, which is another way Rockwood often finds candidates to fill open positions.

“We always want to make sure that students in Rockwood have the best possible teachers,” Donovan said. “Not that we’ve had any trouble with that so far, but if the trend continues, I could see that being a problem in the future.”

A big reason Donovan believes there are fewer teachers now applying for open positions is because of salaries in education.

“Education pay scales are not increasing at the rate that other professions are increasing,” she said.

She said there is only about a $12,000 difference in starting salary from when she started 29 years ago until now.

Data from the 2022-2023 school year reported by the National Education Association said the national average starting salary for a teacher was $42,844. Missouri’s was $34,052.

Anytime LHS loses a teacher, Donovan said it reduces the number of sections a course may offer. When this happens, administrators look at courses that may already have less interest to be cut first.

This change may also affect what courses staff end up teaching in following years or how many positions are filled within a particular department.

Next year, three classes will no longer be offered for both enrollment and staffing reasons: Topics in Literature, Visual Journalism and Debate 2.

One position in the language arts department will be left unfilled because of something called attrition.

This means there aren’t enough students requesting certain courses to keep an additional teacher.

“We have filled the journalism position and we’ve filled one of the language arts positions. We have two more to fill,” Donovan said.

Abby Scott & Ammu Lanka
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Ammu Lanka
Ammu Lanka, News Staff
Grade: Junior Pronouns: She/Her Years on Staff: 2 Hobbies and Interests: reading, creative writing, Carnatic music, violin, history, space Favorite Quote: “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” - Helen Keller Favorite Hot Take: Pepsi and Coca-Cola taste the same. Fun Fact: I have eleven distinguishable birthmarks on my face.
Abby Scott
Abby Scott, News Editor
Grade: Junior Pronouns: She/Her Years on Staff: 1 Hobbies and Interests: color guard, winter guard, listening to music, spending time with friends Favorite Quote: "Let's go golfing!" - DJ Khaled Favorite Hot Take: Pineapple on pizza is delicious. Fun Fact: I can touch my tongue to my nose.
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