How Montgomery Co. schools combatted its teacher shortage

Schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, made some unusual adjustments to keep their teaching staff at near full capacity as districts across the country and the D.C. region battle teacher shortages.

Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Monifa McKnight said part of their success came from actively recruiting candidates around the county.

“The recruitment efforts that we found to be very successful this year, is actually rebranding how we recruit. Going out to the community and meeting our community members where they are, so we could very well have a pop-up shop at a shopping center,” McKnight said. “Versus in the past, advertising position’s and expecting everyone to come to us, we found success in us going to them.”

McKnight also told reporters that they have relied on retired teachers that have volunteered to come back and fill roles, sometimes in what is called a “permanent substitute program” that came in handy during the omicron surge last year.

“That allowed us to be able to have substitutes who are familiar with the schools and serve in those schools consistently, so that they could be on call for whatever vacancies were needed,” McKnight said. “So many of them, again, are retired certified teachers, some are those who have special certifications, who serve in those programs to cover those courses until we’re able to hire permanently.”

She credited a communitywide effort to filling vacancies and told a story about one mother who came to her and signed up to teach Spanish because she was certified. 

County Executive Marc Elrich also credits recent pay hikes that county teachers received.

In May, an agreement was made for around a 6% salary increase for MCPS staff.

“Our ability to raise pay was another big factor in being able to not only attract new teachers, but to recruit from other systems,” Elrich said.

One hole in staffing for the school system is special education teachers.

There were 89 vacancies on the first day of school, according to McKnight.

But in August, a plan ratified by the Montgomery County Education Association hopes to convince teachers dual certified in both special education and general education to transfer to special education classes. They are offering a $5,000 bonus to those who make the transition. 

The deal also provides quarterly incentives for special education teachers who become responsible for additional students as a case manager for a special education student’s Individualized Education Program plan. Teachers could get up to $4,000 more a year.

“So we’re still very much in the process of seeing how that initiative plays out,” McKnight said on the first day of school. 

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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