KINGMAN - Kingman Unified School District begins instruction July 27 and despite the 70 new teachers attending induction activities at La Senita Elementary School Tuesday, the district is still short 14 positions.
"I would classify it as a serious problem that needs to be resolved as quickly as possible," said Superintendent Roger Jacks.
Out of approximately 380 teacher positions, there are five elementary, two secondary, and seven special education teacher openings.
Jacks cited research done at the state and federal levels that labeled the four best ways to retain teachers: competitive salaries and insurance benefits, a strong teacher mentoring program, excellent teacher professional development opportunities, and a good school climate and culture that supports the teacher.
"We are working on improving all four of those," he said.
The KUSD retention rate is 82 percent. Arizona's teacher salaries are low in general and rural area salaries tend to be even lower. A new teacher (with a bachelor's degree) in Kingman starts out at an annual base salary of $30,000. More money comes from the Classroom Site Fund established by Proposition 301 in 2000. Each KUSD teacher gets a yearly CSF average of $6,000 along with the base salary.
"We lose a lot of potentially interested teachers when we discuss how much the job pays," Jacks said.
"This year, a major issue in Arizona and for us in particular, is not even getting a reasonable supply of teacher applicants that we can review for a classroom opening. This is the worst year for just getting teacher applicants."
Both Jacks and Human Resources Director Chris Nutt said the shortage is part of a nationwide trend.
"We can speculate as to why, but it's hard to pinpoint," Nutt said.
She said the district has openings for the critical needs subjects - mainly math, science and special education - but people who specialize in math and science can find better paying jobs in fields other than teaching.
One recruiting and retention tool being used to attract teachers to KUSD is the four-day school schedule starting this year. Regular instruction will be held Monday - Thursday, between 7:25 a.m. and 4:13 p.m. depending on the school. Friday will be reserved for remedial instruction, career and technical instruction and academic enrichment activities.
Shannon Bascombe, who'll be teaching band and general music at White Cliffs and Desert Willow schools, applied to 70 schools nationwide before settling on KUSD. This is her first year of teaching.
"You have to find where you'll do the most good," she said.
The Pennsylvania native attended Capital University in Cleveland, Ohio, and said many East Coast schools are or have already cut numerous fine arts programs, forcing her westward.
She was one of 70 instructors both new to teaching and new to the district attending the two-day induction and training events at Kingman schools.
KUSD has implemented Beyond Textbooks, an online resource and learning community created by the Vail Unified School District in Tucson. That caught Bascombe's attention.
"I was especially interested in the new teaching style," she said.
She has been looking for a new approach to teaching and felt that BT was a better tool to help students fully understand subject material. But overall, she said she felt a sense of honesty and integrity during the KUSD interview process.
"I felt that (Kingman) would be a good place to be," she said.