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Steps weighed to retain teachers: Recruiting abroad among initiatives

Hawaii needs to think “very differently” about how it addresses its longstanding teacher shortage and should perhaps look at alternative solutions — such as recruiting overseas.

Those were among several ideas raised by state Board of Education members Tuesday during a presentation about current efforts to improve teacher retention and recruitment.

The state Department of Education and BOE’s newly updated Strategic Plan calls for at least 98 percent of teacher positions to be filled by 2020 and has a goal to retain at least 60 percent of teachers through their fifth year of employment.

Statewide, about 96 percent of 12,600 positions were occupied at the start of the current school year.

As of Oct. 1, 98.64 percent of teaching positions in the Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area were occupied, according to information provided by the DOE. That number was 95.91 percent in the Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa Complex and 96.68 percent in the Honokaa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex Area.

DOE data also shows about 44 percent of new teachers hired in the 2011-12 school year left the profession five years later.

“Four percent (vacancy) of 12,600 teachers is 500 teachers,” board vice chairman Brian De Lima said Tuesday. “So the problem is, we’re so used to 96 percent being an A-plus. We think we’re doing a good job when in reality the 4 percent is such a huge number that when you have 500 teachers who are not qualified, that’s the problem.”

The department is working to solve the problem through a handful of retention and recruitment initiatives, Barbara Kreig, the department’s assistant superintendent for the Office of Human Resources, told board members Tuesday. Those include creating “favorable” terms and conditions of employment, providing quality professional development and bolstering partnerships with entities such as the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

The DOE also is continuing recruitment efforts on the mainland, Kreig said, and hopes to rely more on “growing our own programs” with time.

In 2010, the DOE started an induction and mentoring program for all new teachers statewide. In a recent survey, 84 percent of new teachers said mentoring helped them become a more effective teacher, DOE spokeswoman Lindsay Chambers said in an email Tuesday.

Board member Darrel Galera worried, however, that current “mentoring and recruiting (efforts) on the mainland” are not enough.

Many efforts have been ongoing “for the last 20 to 30 years,” he said. “So my fear is that, 10 or 20 years from now, we’ll be having the same discussion. … We need to think completely differently about how we can address this problem.”

Board member Hubert Minn said he thinks the problem is a “lack of bodies” and asked the DOE to look at options such as recruiting teachers “outside of the USA.”

The topic came up a second time at the BOE’s general meeting Tuesday when HSTA President Corey Rosenlee asked board members to support the union’s soon-to-be introduced legislation that outlines a “unique” school funding system “that has not been proposed before.”

Rosenlee attributed the state’s growing teacher vacancy rate in part to poor compensation and a lack of funding overall, in comparison to school districts on the mainland.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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