CARTHAGE, Mo. — The 2022-23 school year is not even half over and the Carthage School District is already working to recruit teachers for the 2023-24 school year.
Building on the first Carthage School District job fair, held in July to attract support staff, the district will host a recruitment kickoff event from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Carthage Technical Center South Community Room, 1110 E. Airport Drive in Carthage.
“It’s crazy that we’re already looking that far ahead, but that’s kind of what we have to do,” said Matt Arnold, district human resources director, in a Nov. 21 presentation to the Carthage Board of Education.
“We found over the last couple of years that things are changing in the world of education, recruiting absolutely as well,” Arnold said.
He said Holly Goodnight, assistant superintendent for business, “has shared with us that she knows other districts that are giving letters of intent to hire for junior level in college education students. So this is what we’re doing to respond to that.”
Amy Cristy, district communication specialist, said the event is in response to consistent enrollment growth in the district and the natural turnover that happens among teachers every year.
“As you all know, Carthage enrollment has grown drastically in the past 15 years and people continue to move to Carthage for our unique programming in our schools, our tech center, our many things we’re doing at the high school,” Cristy said. “Our highly qualified teachers are a huge part of that, and we want to continue that. That is where we came up with the Carthage recruitment kickoff.”
Cristy said the hiring fair for noncertified staff in July was a “huge success.”
“We were able to fill almost all of our open spots, so we took that idea and melded it with some ideas that Matt (Arnold) brought in and this is what we’ve come up with,” Cristy said. “This is going to be an opportunity for all 13 of our Carthage campuses to demonstrate why Carthage is a destination district to juniors and seniors in college, up-and-coming students that are going to be graduating, or graduate students or current teachers who are looking for a change.
“It’s not going to be a competition. It’s going to be ‘This is Carthage, this is who we are, and how do you fit in to our system and which school is going to be the best fit for you because we want you.’”
Cristy said the district sent invitations to 19 colleges and universities in the region to make their students aware of the event. They also dropped off postcards with details at some of the nearby colleges and universities, such as Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri State University in Springfield and Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas.
Superintendent Mark Baker said other school districts are jumping on the recruiting bandwagon and even offering commitments to hire teachers when they are still juniors in college or university.
He said the district has been working to recruit former Carthage students who are working on their education degrees at Missouri Southern to get them to consider returning to Carthage to teach.
“Recruiting is so difficult at this point, I mentioned the intent to hire when they’re in their junior year even before student teaching begins, which emphasizes how desperate it is,” Baker said. “The main reason our Lions and Tigers Together program was made was to bring our own kids back to teach.”
The Lions and Tigers Together Program identifies former Carthage students in Southern’s teacher education program and was established in the fall of 2020. It also offers $500 scholarships to the students along with dual credit classes while still in high school and opportunities to come to Carthage for their junior practicums and to student teach in Carthage.
The students don’t have to commit to returning to Carthage to teach, but some students have returned after graduation, Baker said.
When asked by Carthage board member Patrick Scott why teachers were leaving Carthage, Baker said the most common reason was a spouse gets a job and the family moves from Carthage.
“We lose very few teachers to schools in our area,” Baker said. “If we do, it’s usually based on child care. I’m not talking about free child care; it’s the opportunity to have child care within the district.”
Baker said the district is working on possible plans to address the child care problem in the district.
Later in the meeting, Baker proposed changes to the district’s employee health insurance benefits to help retain and recruit new teachers and staff.
One change would extend free telephone visits with a doctor to all employees, including those who work fewer than 30 hours a week and are not eligible for the district’s employee health plan.
The other would cover certain preventive care procedures instead of making employees pay for them as part of their deductible.
Baker said teachers and employees working 30 hours or more a week really appreciate the “teledoc” service and he thinks extending it to part-time employees will help attract people to relieve the shortage of bus drivers, substitute teachers and fill other support staff positions.
He said the district’s health insurance benefit is already better than health insurance offered by most districts in the area because the district pays the employee’s $410-per-month premium.
The board unanimously approved the proposal.