For Lacey Nelson, the weeks leading up to the start of school are a blur of spreadsheets, meetings, and calls from principals about last-minute teacher resignations.
With less than two weeks to go, Denver Public Schools’ director of talent acquisition is still looking to hire 150 teachers, 275 paraprofessionals, and up to 45 bus drivers. Priorities get reevaluated daily based on reports from the field. A school that was “fine” two days ago suddenly needs two more teachers.
It’s all completely normal.
“In general, we are not seeing anything different this school year than past school years, and I’m not seeing anything that is majorly off,” Nelson said. “It’s a pretty calm year.”
Even as Colorado school districts are holding hire-on-the-spot job fairs and offering signing bonuses, many education leaders told Chalkbeat the challenges are nothing new and that vacancies and hiring are similar to those of years past.
Nikki Jost, executive director of human resources for Mesa County Valley District 51 in western Colorado, said hiring is actually going better this year.
“COVID protocols are different than in years past, we had a 9.1% increase in wages for returning employees, we increased starting salaries across the board, we increased our social media presence, and we have some amazing recruiters,” she wrote in response to a Chalkbeat survey.
But normal doesn’t mean fully staffed.