Duluth superintendent calls for special session as local schools face teacher shortage

Across the country, schools are getting ready for class to start, but there aren't enough...
Across the country, schools are getting ready for class to start, but there aren't enough teachers to fill vacancies in the classroom, leaving district leaders scrambling.(CBS 3 Duluth)
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:14 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - Across the country, schools are getting ready for class to start, but there aren’t enough teachers to fill vacancies in the classroom, leaving district leaders scrambling.

Just a few weeks away from the start of the academic year, the Duluth School District is short nearly 60 positions, around 15 of which are teachers.

“We definitely have staffing shortages in Duluth, like we do across the state and the country,” said Superintendent John Magas.

While he’s confident they’ll be able to have successful year, he said there are impacts to these shortages.

“Maybe the classrooms are not as clean as they might be because we don’t have enough custodians,” he said. “Maybe the line in the lunchroom is longer because we don’t have enough food service people. Or, maybe we’re hiring a teacher closer to the last minute that doesn’t have a chance to get established in their classroom.”

Magas said the pool of candidates has gotten much smaller in recent years because less people want to become teachers.

“It’s been a stressful time in education for the past two years,” Magas said. “I think it’s been very challenging with the additional needs of the pandemic, and I think it’s made some people reconsider, ‘Is this the job for me right now?’”

Across the bridge in Superior, district leaders said they’re fortunate to be nearly fully-staffed.

“As a school district, we work really hard to create an environment where people want to come to and work, and I think that contributes to why we have so few openings right now,” said Superintendent Amy Starzecki.

However, not all school districts in Wisconsin have that same luxury.

One Northwest Wisconsin Superintendent, who didn’t want us to share her name or district, said her teachers have been getting cold calls from neighboring districts, offering them bonuses to come work for them.

Despite the shortage, district leaders seemed confident they would open the school year successfully, even if it means superintendents taking their turn at teaching in the classroom.

“Because it’s not fair to ask people to do more if you’re not willing to do it yourself,” said Magas.

The positions in highest demand are high school math and science teachers and special education teachers for all ages.

Every district we spoke with Thursday said they’re always in need of substitute teachers.

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