FRESNO, Calif. – The Fresno school district is “being creative” in luring in hundreds of new teachers amid a statewide teacher shortage, and administrators are turning to Mexico, Starbucks, grocery stores and other unusual places for new recruits.
Fresno Unified School District is hiring more than 300 new teachers for the 2016-17 school year, an undertaking district human relations director Cyndy Quintana said required her team to take aggressive action, the Fresno Bee reports.
“We’ve recruited from the dog park, from The Cheesecake Factory and Starbucks. Wherever we go, we recruit constantly,” Quintana said. “There is a teacher shortage, but Fresno Unified is alive and well and being creative. Everyday is an interview.”
Quintana told the news site she’s flown to New York, Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico over the last year to bring in educators, and even had three teachers from Mexico living in her house this summer as they transitioned into teaching positions.
In Mexico, teachers make about $700 a month, while Fresno County teachers bring in $65,000 to $80,000 a year, said Lucero Escareno, a 28-year-old from Coahuila, Mexico who starts this week at Fresno’s Sunset Elementary School.
“I think it’s going to be a real challenge. As you can see, I’m struggling right now with my English, so maybe those students are also struggling,” she told the Bee. “I’m here to help them and connect with them and to learn, too.”
Another recruit from Monterrey, Mexico – 38-year-old Aaron Faz – said he’s looking forward to teaching with much better technology at Yosemite Middle School.
“One of the biggest problems in Mexico is we don’t have technology in the classrooms in public schools. No computers, no smart boards, nothing,” he said.
The Bee reports that 449 Fresno Unified teachers do not currently have full teaching credentials, but are working toward a license through an alternative process for people with a bachelor’s degree. The program utilizes mentor teachers to guide new educators while they take coursework to earn their teaching license, which takes about a year.
A report by the Learning Policy Institute shows that about a third of all teachers who came into the profession in California last two years utilized the alternative certification process.
“While alternative certification is never the best way to put a teacher in front of a kid, right now, that’s how we’re filling our positions – as is every other district. It’s a great way to get second-career folks into the profession,” Quintana said.
California union officials believe the teacher shortage will get a lot worse before it gets any better.
After many teachers across the country lost their jobs during the national recession, there are far fewer young people pursuing education degrees. At the same time, baby boomers are retiring in massive numbers.
“College students saw a once-safe profession as one not immune to the effects of economic downturn,” California Teachers Association spokesman Ed Sibby wrote in an email to the San Bernardino Sun. “Now with the retirement of the baby boomer generation (10,000 per day nationally until 2023), and our two California public university systems training teachers at 40 percent of demand, it is a certainty the teacher shortfall will get worse before it improves.”
Other California school districts are turning to sizeable signing bonuses to lure in top teaching talent for hard-to-fill positions.
At Pittsburg Unified schools, for example, Cuauhtemoc Mixcoatl-Martinez landed a $10,000 signing bonus – $5,000 for being a dual immersion language teacher and $5,000 for being an alum of the district, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
“All the bricks fell into place, and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” he said.
Mt. Diablo Unified offered $5,000 bonuses for speech-language pathologists, and Oakland Unified offered special education teachers a $1,000 signing bonus, the news site reports.
“It almost feels that there’s a sense of – and I hate to use the word – ‘desperation’ for many districts to get people in these hard-to-fill fields,” David Drapf, director at St. Mary’s College’s Kalmanovitz School of Education, told the News.