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CCSD approaches school year short 650 teachers

Less than a month before classes begin, the Clark County School District is short 650 teachers, according to officials who struggle almost every summer to recruit the army of teachers needed at its 357 schools.

But the shortage this year seems to have been worsened for a new reason. Elementary school teachers — usually the easiest to recruit and hire — were sparse as far back as May.

“We did a little bit of research, and this is what we found,” said Staci Vesneske, the school district’s chief human resources officer, whose staff reached out to several surrounding states.

Like Nevada schools, many schools in surrounding states are reducing elementary class sizes and need more teachers.

“Most of our elementary school candidates are being gobbled up in their home states,” Vesneske said.

Even if they wanted, Clark County schools could not rely solely on home-grown teachers. Nevada handed out 658 new teacher licenses in 2008-09 and 593 in 2012-13.

“If we hired every graduate in the state of Nevada, we wouldn’t fill half the need of Clark County,” said Vesneske, who ended last school year estimating a need for up to 1,800 new teachers by the start of 2014-15, largely because of resignations and retirements.

The district has long relied on other states — and other countries — for half its teacher hires, with most coming from California. But even the Golden State is running dry as the profession struggles to attract college students. In 2007-08, California issued 23,320 new teacher licenses. That total dwindled to 16,450 in 2011-12 and about 14,500 in 2012-13.

The 650 vacancies in Clark County remain despite the hiring of more than 1,250 teachers throughout the summer,. Seventy percent of those teacherless classrooms are at the elementary level, which is “very unusual,” Vesneske said.

While 30 elementary schools have five or more unfilled teacher positions, half of all Clark County schools are currently fully staffed or missing only one teacher.

Vesneske expects the district to be about 400 teachers short by the first day of classes Aug. 25, more than double the 170 vacancies at the start of last school year but lower than usual for the nation’s fifth-largest school district, which employs about 18,000 teachers.

For the 2012-13 school year, classes began with substitute teachers at the front of 350 classrooms. At the time, that was the best record in recent history. The five previous school years started with anywhere from 406 to 692 teacher vacancies.

However, 300 of those 350 substitutes remained in place throughout the 2012-13 school year, never replaced by a licensed teacher.

While the district has its largest stable of substitute teachers on record, 4,300 of them, long-term substitutes are not preferred. The district is working on a program that would provide extra pay to substitutes with bachelor’s degrees who agree to work in high-need schools. The goal is to have them become certified teachers through the state’s alternative licensing program for those with college degrees.

In addition to the 650 teachers still needed for the first day of class on Aug. 25, another 200 teachers will likely leave sometime during the school year and will need to be replaced.

Contact Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @TrevonMilliard.

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