HATTIESBURG, MS - The University of Southern Mississippi held its annual Teacher Career Fair Friday to provide students networking opportunities with school districts across the country.
USM's Assistant Director of Career Services Kathy Killam said 65 school districts registered for the event, coming to Hattiesburg from all across the state, as well as Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and other states outside of the region.
Laurel School District Superintendent Chuck Benigno said USM's career fair is the prime opportunity to attract quality teachers.
"When it comes to education, filling our positions with dynamic and sharp new teachers is really what it's all about," Benigno said. "I think of it as football recruiting, so today is really an important day."
Benigno said his district does not have as many openings as they have in the past due to shortfalls in funding from the state.
"The only place you can really make a difference is in personnel cost," Benigno explained of cutting costs. "What happens to most districts, if someone leaves, your first thought is, 'Can I afford to not fill that position and somehow streamline our staff?' which then means higher class ratios."
In addition to funding, given the changes to Mississippi's benchmarks by moving to College and Career Readiness standards, otherwise known as Common Core, Benigno said the number of teacher applicants is still positive.
"I've been impressed by the talent, and I think there's a large enough pool for us [Laurel] to look at right now," he said. "Also, the alternate route has provided us some unique opportunities for people to join the teaching field."