Clark County schools open in a few weeks, but for many new teachers, the first big event of the school year is set to happen during orientation for new teachers Aug. 13 and 14 at a resort on the Strip.
The Clark County School District expects to bring in around 2,000 teachers this year, versus the 2,300 who were hired last year.
“We’re growing again,” said Staci Vesneske, chief human resources officer for the district. “The economy’s up. Enrollment is up. There were no cutbacks. There’s class size reduction in place. We need to bring in more teachers.”
Reducing kindergarten class sizes to 21 students was decreed for this year by Nevada legislators, but the district hopes to reduce all class sizes.
“For primary schools, we’d like to hit the low 20s,” Vesneske said. “We’d like to be at 23 or 25. It doesn’t happen all the time, but we’re focusing on making sure classes are a smaller size.”
To fill all those positions, the district has expanded an alternate route to licensure.
“It’s for people who have a bachelor’s of arts degree and want to be teachers but don’t necessarily want to go back and get a master’s degree,” Vesneske said. “It’s essentially a fast track to becoming a licensed teacher.”
The district provides training and experience. After going through the program, the prospective teachers become eligible to be hired into a vacant position. There is a fee to enter the program.
“It’s about $400,” Vesneske said. “It covers the school district’s costs, and we find that people are more invested in the program if they’ve put money into the training.”
Belinda Jackley has been hired to teach Advanced Placement English literature at Bonanza High School. She came to the valley from Seattle to attend UNLV, earning a Bachelor of Arts and Music degree and a Master of Music in Voice Performance degree. Her secondary degree was in English.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Jackley said. “I really like working with kids and young adults. I love English. I have a passion for it. I want it to be exciting for other people, and I want it to matter.”
The district is also looking to Teach For America to provide new educators.
“It’s a nonprofit committed to improving educational circumstances for students in poverty,” Vesneske said. “They have a heavy presence on college campuses and recruit from there. They have their own alternative licensure program. The people they bring agree to a two-year commitment at a higher-needs school.”
Vesneske added that 70 percent stay more than two years and stay in higher-needs schools.
As it happens, higher-needs schools are where most of the teachers are needed. Most of the nearly 500 positions that were still vacant at the end of July were on the east side of the valley in lower-income neighborhoods. Vesneske said the hiring will continue until the opening day of classes, Aug. 25.
“Where we need teachers changes from year to year,” she said. “It could be anywhere, but this year, it’s the east side of town that has the greatest need.”
Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.