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St. John Public Schools eye recruitment & training to increase certified teacher count

RESERVE — Getting more certified teachers in classrooms is St. John the Baptist Parish School Board members No. 1 goal following this two-day retreat last week.

Board members listed their goals during the two-day meeting, and attracting and retaining certified teachers made nearly every list.

“We have to do something because our students deserve to have the best teachers in their classes,” said board member Nia Mitchell, chairwoman of the board’s Strategic Planning Committee.

The committee plans to create a timeline, ways to measure progress and to present the goals during the School Board’s Thursday meeting.

“There’s a statewide committee, because this is a problem not just in Louisiana, not just in St. John but it’s a national problem as far as certified teachers,” Superintendent Kevin George said.

“So there’s always recruitment and retention but I believe those are things of the past because when you go to the colleges the numbers that are produced as far as kids going into education pale in comparison to even when I was coming out. With the accountability changes and everything going on now people are not going into education.”

St. John the Baptist Parish School Board member Charo Holden writes down goals during the School Board’s retreat.

Instead, George said the district has begun to look at the uncertified teachers already in the classroom and is finding ways to help them become certified.

Those efforts include paying for teachers to receive their certification and in return requiring a commitment to remain as certified teachers in the district, as well as weekly classes that help teachers with passing the Praxis test. The district also has a referral program for employees who refer already certified teachers to the district.

“We’ve begun to say, ‘OK, we’re going to continue our recruitment and retention but the people who already said they want to work for us let’s work with getting those people to get them certified’ and that’s why you’ll see that we’ve partnered with LRCE, with iTeach and some other organizations,” George said.

“So we are breaking it down all the way to the molecular level because, yes we do have to recruit and retain, but we also have to train.”

Finding ways to increase pay to compete with surrounding parishes, improving moral and creating a culture and climate that entices people to work and stay in the district could all be solutions, according to board members.

Board member Debbie Schum said the district should set a realistic goal of having the district’s percentage of certified teachers at or below the state average.

“We’re going to have to be creative in our recruiting plan because we’re not going to fix the gaps in student achievement until we can help fix the problem we have with noncertified teachers,” she said.