State schools seeking 1,000 teachers

Published 7:02 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Schools across the state are searching for nearly 1,000 teachers for the upcoming academic year.

The largest school district in the state, Jackson, has 32,000 students and is looking for about 150 teachers to complete its staff of 2,056. Most of those vacancies are at the elementary level.

Greg Kelly, who recruits teachers for the school district, says the number of openings is typical, but added, “at the same time, there are just fewer teacher candidates.”

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The state needed 256 elementary teachers as of mid-June, with 74 of those vacancies in Jackson.

Middle and high schools can hire college graduates who earn teaching credentials through alternative ways, but elementary teachers must complete a standard education program.

“We’re not producing enough of those lower-elementary teachers,” Kelly said.

In Natchez, enrollment could be between 4,500 and 4,600 students, depending on the number of Hurricane Katrina evacuees stay this year, Superintendent Anthony Morris said. He said he is looking for two middle school math teachers, several elementary teachers and a couple of assistant principals.

In the state’s three fastest-growing districts — in DeSoto, Madison and Rankin counties — officials say online applications, aggressive recruiting and successful retention programs have resulted in fewer teaching vacancies.

Officials in DeSoto County say most of their 125 openings have been filled. Madison County officials say their district is fully staffed.

And in Rankin County, 44 teachers were hired and 20 more could be added if enrollment is higher than expected, Assistant Superintendent Tally Carroll said.

“We tried to anticipate that more closely than before. Always before, we waited to see who was going to show up,” she said.