Harford County is going to try alleviating some future teaching shortages by growing its own exceptional teachers in areas such as math, science, career and technology and special education.
A new program to encourage 25 future Harford County Public Schools graduates to become teachers in their home county was authorized last week by the Harford County Board of Education. The office of Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has already pledged to throw $6,000 into a pot that will provide modest, four-year scholarships starting next fall.
The hope is that other community organizations and businesses will join, so five four-year scholarships can be awarded for each of the next five years, 25 in all, for a total program cost of $150,000.
The Growing Exceptional Teachers program, or GET, was explained in detail by Jean Mantegna, HCPS assistant superintendent of human resources, and Howard Kutch er, senior manager of human relations, at the Dec. 5 school board meeting. Glassman appeared with them.
Mantegna said an annual report by the Maryland Department of Education concludes Maryland faces "a severe shortage of male teachers and teachers of color," and HCPS experiences similar issues, as well as shortages of candidates for positions in STEM subjects and special education.
HCPS, she said, filled 291 teacher vacancies in the last year hiring period and opened this school year in August with 22 classroom teaching vacancies, including eight in math, eight in special education and three special ed openings. There were 11 non-classroom vacancies, including seven language pathologists and three school psychologists, which are certificated positions like classroom teachers. Midway through the second quarter they still have a handful of math, science and tech ed vacancies.
Of the teachers hired in the past year, 67, or 23 percent, were former HCPS students, Montegna said, showing the school system does have success in recruiting from within the ranks of alumni. Of the 67, 21 are teaching in so-called "critical shortage areas" such as math, science or special ed. Four were males and one was a person of color.
"Growing our own does seem to be alive and well in Harford County Public Schools...," she added, but said they still need to do a better job.
The Harford GET program will provide qualifying graduates with scholarships of $1,000 in each of the first two years of college and $2,000 in each of the second two, for the total of $6,000. The goal she said is to encourage more students to become teachers and "to stay and work within Harford."
Those who are selected for the program will receive informal mentoring, fast track to substitute teaching opportunities and an advance open contract prior to graduation in the spring of their junior year, as well as an advance credit for the first step on the HCPS salary schedule, she said. The program will automatically sunset in 2024-25 after the final cohort of five candidates graduates, unless the board decides to extend it.
Board members were enthusiastic about the proposal, and several said they believe local organizations will want to step up and contribute. Glassman said he will be asking many of the county government's "corporate partners" to become involved.
"This is a great opportunity," the county executive said, noting GET will "help fill shortages in addition to boosting minorities."
Board Vice President Joseph Voskuhl, a retired Bel Air High School principal, said he hired many teachers, and "I never regretted hiring a Harford County student to teach at Bel Air High School, never regretted it, never had them leave. They were always willing to go the extra mile because of what they were given when they were students here."