Teresa McCulloh, president of the Carroll County Education Association, said educators’ plates are full in the public schools.
McCulloh told Board of Education members Wednesday that as the schools deal with another year of the pandemic, staff members are overloaded with responsibilities as they take on additional duties such as preparing technology for absent students, collecting work from quarantined students, filling in for substitutes — who are in short supply — and losing planning time.
“I conclude that we hit an all-time low [in] morale,” she said. “I’m worried for our educators and the profession.”
Later in the meeting, board members and staff discussed enrollment numbers, the progress they have made in recruiting teachers and the challenges they still face.
During a report on class sizes, Cindy McCabe, chief of schools, said that as of Sept. 30, the average elementary school class size was 21.3 students. No classes have 30 or more students. In the middle schools, the average size is 22.5 students, with 157 classes that have 30 or more students. And in the high schools, average class size is 23.2 students, with 217 classes that have more than 30 students.
Around this time last year, the Carroll public schools saw enrollment drop by nearly 800 students, compared to the 2019-2020 school year. Enrollment totaled to 24,568 students in 2020-2021. McCabe said school officials do not have the official enrollment numbers for this school year, but it looks like the gap has closed from a loss of 777 students last school year to about 300 this year, compared to 2019-2020.
Superintendent Steve Lockard said it appears that at least half the lost students have returned to the public schools. Last year, school officials believed students left the school system to attend private schools, where in-person learning was happening, or transferred to home schooling.
During the update on pillar III, which is part of the school system’s plan to develop and support a successful workforce, staff reported making progress in recruitment despite challenges. The Maryland State Department of Education’s latest data showed a shortage of teachers in special education, secondary mathematics and science, among other areas, a document on the pillar III update stated.
The state education department also reported a shortage of teachers who are male and people of color. The Center for American Progress reported in December 2019 that enrollment in teacher preparation programs declined by 41% in Maryland, the meeting document stated. The state experienced an 11% decline in teacher preparation program completion. Enrollment of Black students in Maryland in the preparation program declined by 40% and male enrollment decreased by the same amount.
“The hiring of minority teachers continues to be extremely competitive due to the shortage of certificated applicants in Maryland and across the United States,” the meeting document stated.
“Maryland does not produce enough teachers,” Ernesto Diaz, director of human resources, said at Wednesday’s meeting.
However, Carroll’s Department of Human Resources reported that 199 teachers were hired between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021.
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“This total represents an increase of 46% when compared to the last reporting period when 136 teachers were hired,” the report stated. In addition, 161 teachers resigned, retired, took a leave of absence or were promoted.
Diaz said 10% of the hires are minorities, which is about a 5% to 6% increase from the year prior.
The national teacher shortage makes it difficult to recruit highly qualified applicants in critical shortage areas, the report stated. Of all who applied, 74.4% were seeking positions in noncritical areas. Other recruiting challenges were posed by candidates who did not perform well in CCPS interviews or are no longer available for employment.
“Competition with Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Harford, Howard and Montgomery counties continues to be very intense, particularly for minority, male, experienced and candidates in critical shortage content areas,” the report stated.
“CCPS’ new teacher starting salaries at the bachelor’s degree level are the 11th highest among the 24 Maryland public school systems,” the report stated.
In June, CCPS staff set a goal to offer 25% more open contracts to minority teachers than the year before. The meeting document stated that of the 256 open contracts offered for the critical shortage and content areas this year, 15, or 7.5%, were accepted and 57 were declined.
The report states 16 open contracts were offered altogether in 2020-2021, and 10 were accepted. Of the accepted, 60%, were minority applicants. This school year, 25 open contracts were offered altogether, and 15 were accepted. Of those who accepted, 13.3% were minority candidates.