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District 518 needs teachers and paras before school starts

“Even the classroom positions, we’re not getting applicants, and when I talk to my colleagues around the area, they’re not getting applicants either.”

101221 N DG Worthington High School S1.jpg
Worthington High School. Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — A lack of applicants for teaching and paraprofessional positions has left District 518 in a challenging situation, Superintendent John Landgaard told the Instructional Committee of the District 518 Board of Education Monday.

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“Even the classroom positions, we’re not getting applicants, and when I talk to my colleagues around the area, they’re not getting applicants either,” Landgaard said.

Every school has teaching positions to fill, even the Learning Center and the new Intermediate School, and the District particularly needs classroom teachers, English learner teachers and special education teachers. Every school also has open paraprofessional positions, and across the district 25 paras are needed.

“Do we have a plan to go out and recruit?” asked Brad Shaffer, school board member.

Landgaard said District 518 had been beating the bushes for more teachers and paras, and can offer hiring incentives, but there just aren’t many people out there ready to go back to work.

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“It’s going to be a struggle when fall comes, and in some cases, class sizes are going to be higher,” Landgaard said.

Woods, whose first group of students has turned 24 years old, retires this year.

He added that the Sioux Falls, S.D., school district had opted to pay a stipend to teachers licensed in special education who were willing to return to that field for a year.

Landgaard also said he thinks teachers and the community in general need to speak more positively about teaching.

“Not a lot of bright news there. We’ll get a plan worked out by fall, but it’s certainly a challenge,” Landgaard said.

The committee also approved continuing the District 518 contract with Teachers on Call, which provides substitutes for both teachers and paraprofessionals. The company’s administrative fee had risen, as there are a limited number of substitutes available as well.

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“Our office folks work their tails off to cover classes and a lot of staff, during their prep time, are covering classes,” Landgaard said. “There’s shortages there as well, and of course the pandemic did not help that aspect.”

Very few of the people who left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic returned, he said, and those who retired are reluctant to return.

Landgaard sharply criticized Minnesota state lawmakers for failing to take action to solve the problem.

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“Our legislators fumbled the ball,” he said.

She has especially enjoyed teaching middle school — most recently eighth grade — as those students still have a lot of exuberance and are less likely to slack off when it’s a class they aren’t thrilled with, she said.

The contract with Teachers on Call will go before the full board for approval at its next meeting at 5:15 p.m. June 21.

In other news Monday, the committee:

  • Learned that a second school resource officer has been hired for the district.
  • Discussed eliminating the VIBE secretarial position at the Learning Center following the addition of the dean of students position there. The individual in the position will be reassigned when the position ends.
A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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