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Monday November 19th, 2018 2:20AM

Hall schools face CTAE teacher shortage, use weather reporting app to make school-closing decisions

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter

GAINESVILLE – Attracting and retaining CTAE (Career, Technical and Agricultural Education) teachers is becoming a problem for the Hall County school system.

Kevin Bales, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, told the Hall County school board Monday evening, “They do very specialized jobs…health care science teachers are at the front of that list…metals technology…construction, engineering, ag-mechanics, graphic arts…automotive (technology).” 

“I have great concern over some of these high-demand areas,” School Superintendent Will Schofield said as he underscored Bales’ comment.

Schofield highlighted the need for health care science educators. “As the economy gets hotter and hotter, as the population gets older and the demand for health care science gets greater and greater we just can’t find these teachers.”     

“We’re going to have to get more and more creative about how we recruit them, how we retain them, what we pay them, what kind of credit we give them,” Schofield said.   

Going further, Schofield added, “We have had the philosophy for a long time in this district that just because you have a teaching certificate doesn’t mean everybody has to be paid the same thing.  It is based on supply and demand, and quite honestly the demand for some of these areas is outpacing the supply and it’s not even close.”

“We’re going to have to compete against our neighbors; we’re going to have to find a way to bring in health care science teachers, to bring in construction teachers, to bring in engineering teachers; our students are counting on it.”

“In the next 30-days I will be sending you some possibilities that we’re coming up with in terms of how we incentivize some of these extremely high-demand CTAE positions.” 

“It’s getting harder and harder to find some of these positions, and the revolving door that we have every year – we get them for a year and then they go back into private industry – we can do some things that can make that better.”

Bales said his staff had been trying to learn what neighboring school districts were doing to attract CTAE instructors.  “One district was giving a $10,000 signing bonus and they commented that for a year that brought them in, and the next year they left.”  

Bales said he was learning some of the challenges and pitfalls in recruiting and retaining CTAE teachers as he reached out to nearby school districts for advice. “We need to have long term success providing these specialized instructors for our students.” 

Schofield said the board faced a similar challenge in the past in hiring and keeping school bus drivers.  “For the last several years you have taken that transportation issue seriously…and it’s the first time since I’ve been here that we actually enough bus drivers.  It’s because we got serious about making them feel valued in the culture, the climate and in their paychecks.”

“We did what it took,” Schofield surmised, “and we need to do some things (in the future) to cover some of these high needs instructional areas.”

WEATHER APP PROVES ITS VALUE

A Google Maps-based app has become the “go-to” source for school officials in determining when to close, and when to re-open, school during weather related issues.

School Superintendent Will Schofield said, ““Nineteen years ago, when I first became a superintendent, you’d get in a pickup truck and you’d go for a ride at 3:30 in the morning and you’d have to make a decision based on extremely limited information.”

Dr. Aaron Turpin, Assistant Superintendent of Technology, said,” About five years ago we came to you with what we thought was a groundbreaking idea at the time…we took Google Maps and overlaid a spreadsheet…and said we would ground source road conditions.”

“We asked the community and anyone who wanted to report in what the road conditions were,” Turpin added.

“Good experience, however, we learned (from) that,” Turpin said with a chuckle, explaining that students apparently learned that if enough “Impassible Road” conditions were reported school would be cancelled.

“We now have our third version of the app…we asked the SROs (School Resource Officers) to go out…and report what they see,” Turpin said.

School Innovation Architect Jay Smith oversees the app and its use.  He said, “We require (of the SROs) that when they submit an “Impassible Road” report they submit a picture of it.”

Schofield said, “It’s a data based way of making weather decisions.  It doesn’t make people feel any better but when they call me up and call me all kinds of names and ask ‘Why did you close school?’,  we can say, ‘We had 91 roads that were impassible and there are pictures of them.’; they don’t feel any better but they quit calling you names.” 

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Hall schools face CTAE teacher shortage, use weather reporting app to make school-closing decisions
Attracting and retaining CTAE (Career, Technical and Agricultural Education) teachers is becoming a problem for the Hall County school system.
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