Where are the teachers? | Knox Co. Schools principal reports ‘teacher shortage crisis’

Will there be enough teachers in Knox County Schools when students return in a couple of weeks?
94 teacher vacancies for KCS as of July 26
Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 7:05 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Will there be enough teachers in Knox County Schools when students return in a couple of weeks?

Principal John Bartlett of Farragut High School tweeted his concerns.

The Senior Director for Human Resources at Knox County Schools said, “We’re in pretty good shape.”

Scott Bolton explained that KCS has 67 schools with zero teacher vacancies.

“Middle and high school is more difficult to staff than elementary,” Bolton said.

He said they need math, foreign language and English teachers the most. As of Tuesday, Bolton said there were 94 teacher vacancies district-wide with more than 4,000 teachers in Knox County Schools. WVLT News is told several of the vacancies account for leave of absences that take place later in the fall.

“I would not say it’s at a crisis level for Knox County,” Bolton said.

However, the University of Tennessee’s Dean for the College of Education, Health and Human Services, Ellen McIntyre, has noticed the growing trend of a lack of teachers.

“We are concerned that we don’t always have enough teachers in the classrooms,” McIntyre said. “In the last decade or so, we’ve really seen a drop off of people who are interested in coming into teaching.”

McIntyre said it’s not always about the pay. “Often it’s more about the working conditions. And I don’t mean that schools are bad places to work or anything like that, but the job of teaching has become harder in the last decade or so,” she explained.

McIntyre said she believes there are more career options, and teaching may be a short stint for some since the pandemic showed families all the responsibilities teachers have in schools.

“By and large, I feel like we’re in a good spot. I feel like if school were to start tomorrow, I feel like we would have folks in the classrooms in front of students where we wouldn’t be crunched,” Bolton said.

Some solutions they’ve found include: proactively filling upcoming vacancies, expanding partnerships with educator prep programs and hiring teachers who have their teaching licenses in other states.

UT Knoxville also has a “Grow Your Own” initiative to ensure there are quality educators in Tennessee classrooms.

KCS teachers report on Monday, August 1. Students return on August 8.

Bolton hoped to have zero positions left to fill by then but recognized the hiring process doesn’t start even when school starts.

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