The Hattiesburg Public School District needs more certified teachers, and leaders boosted recruitment efforts to try to be fully staffed by August 2017.
"We were not fully staffed this year," said Superintendent Robert Williams. "We probably had, it varied, somewhere between 18 and 23 vacancies from K-12."
Williams said most of those vacancies were filled uncertified, long-term substitute teachers, and he said the district notifies parents when an uncertified person is teaching. Williams also said the district is offering curriculum resources that meet district requirements to all those teaching kindergarten through eighth grade, not just long-term substitutes, to be sure children receive quality instruction.
"I'm very proud of those long-term substitutes that stepped into the classroom," Williams said. "They did a great job. We had some long-term subs in third grade, and you see that our numbers tremendously increased in third grade. So we're very excited about the long-term subs. Of course, like most districts, we need more math teachers in the pool."
More than math teachers, Williams and district leaders want to expand their pool of applicants across the board and boosted recruiting efforts to do so, even hosting a job fair at the district office Tuesday.
"In the past we limited some of our recruitment efforts to certain universities," Williams said. "This year, we made a concerted effort to attend every university and college in the state of Mississippi."
Williams said district leaders also attended two job fairs in Alabama this year, and hope to expand recruitment to other southern states, like like Arkansas and Tennessee, next year.
Jimmy Hopkins, interim director of Staff Support and Policy for HPSD, said the district has gotten good response from applicants so far.
"I would say that the principals have done really well in their follow up and follow through with those persons that we saw the the recruitment fairs," Hopkins said.
Hopkins said between the May and June school board meetings, the district reduced 25 to 30 job openings to just 15. He said about a third of those 15 positions already have people in place who have been recommended for hire who are awaiting their teaching licenses.
"We're better off than where we were this time last year," Hopkins said.
He's optimistic the district will start the 2017-2018 school year fully staffed.