A record number of new teachers have been hired for Carroll County schools this fall to keep pace with growing student enrollment, staff additional full-day kindergarten classrooms and help high-school students struggling to pass state assessments, according to school officials.
More than 300 new hires - about 250 of which are teachers - are expected when schools open Aug. 28, said Stephen Guthrie, assistant superintendent of administration. Additional teacher assistants and custodians were also added to the staff.
"This is a new record for hiring, especially when compared to 10 years ago, when we would hire about 50 new teachers" for the start of a new school year, he said.
Guthrie said about 170 of the hires were made to fill new positions, many of which were added to deal with student population growth and intervention services.
He said the boost in hiring is not a result of teacher resignations and added that the school system's turnover rate has remained steady at about 9 percent for several years.
About 45 positions remain to be filled - including seven in special education, a handful in kindergarten and three speech-language pathologists - said Jimmie Saylor, the system's director of human resources.
"Depending on kindergarten enrollment, we may not fill [the additional vacancies]," said Saylor, who added that elementary school enrollments are known to be less predictable before the start of school.
Staffing for full-day kindergarten accounts for the largest number of new hires, with 20 full-time teachers, 20 full-time teacher assistants and about 15 music, art and physical education teachers, media specialists and clerks, and custodians added, Guthrie said.
State education officials have required all-day kindergarten by the 2007-2008 school year as part of the $1.3 billion Thornton Commission education reforms - also known as the Bridge to Excellence Act.
Guthrie said the school system was fortunate to have made offers to kindergarten teachers early in the recruiting season to get commitments to fill as many of the openings as possible.
"We hired kindergarten teachers in May, not knowing exactly where that position would be," he said. "With all 24 school districts out there looking for kindergarten teachers" it was important to get ahead of the competition, he said.
In addition to more kindergarten teachers, Carroll school officials are hiring a kindergarten resource teacher, whose job will include professional development.
"When you have that many new teachers ... somebody has to observe those teachers and evaluate them," Guthrie said. "You can't just add another 40 teachers without providing some oversight."
Another state Board of Education initiative has prompted the creation of new positions in Carroll, Guthrie said.
State education officials require students starting with the Class of 2009 to pass high school assessments in English, biology, algebra and government to graduate from high school.
Most students take these subjects in ninth or 10th grade. Students who fail the end-of-course tests will be given up to three more times each year to retake them.
To help students who are struggling to pass these exams, Carroll school officials are hiring seven assessment intervention teachers, one for each of the county's high schools. Guthrie said the students would attend classes with these teachers for additional tutoring in the subjects.
Several 11-month math and reading resource teacher positions have been created at the elementary school level. These teachers' 212-day contracts would provide time for training and curriculum writing during the summer.
Two behavior specialists have been hired at the middle-school level to help address behavioral issues. Several new special education positions have also been filled.
With a growing enrollment of students whose native language is not English, Guthrie said that a number of part-time teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages have been converted to full-time positions.
"What we're trying to do is use the quality people we already have on board," he said. "These people not only have to have good teaching skills, but have to have multi-language proficiency and be able to work with parents."
Guthrie said the district's recruiters visit about 50 job fair sites on the East Coast. He also said school officials are looking at ways to improve the system's Web site to bolster recruiting efforts, especially in light of steady pressure to keep spending down.
"Most [college] students are more comfortable with sitting at a computer and doing a Google search when looking at school systems," said Guthrie, who added that Carroll's school system has an online job application at its Web site, www.carrollk12.org. "With our limited resources, we're looking at where to best use them."