(WIVB) — With only a few weeks before the start of the school year, districts throughout Western New York are scrambling to find enough substitute teachers and staff.
Niagara Falls School Superintendent Mark Laurrie said the district went from having around 80 substitute teachers to now having less than 10. With school around the corner, he’s not sure they have enough time or enough candidates to fill those positions.
“It’s a tough time, not only to find teachers, it’s a competitive time to find teachers,” Laurrie said. “But it’s a nearly impossible, critical time to find substitute teachers.”
The first day of school is quickly approaching, and school districts across Western New York have a major assignment — hire enough teachers.
“We are competing with a lot of school districts even in Western New York, especially those hard to fill areas of special ed and science,” Laurrie said. “And we knew we had to lock up, so to speak, and contract as many as we could, as early as possible.”
Laurrie said the district began hiring in April. The district still needs a science teacher and two school psychologists.
“This has been about six months in the making, and we’re down to our last few,” he said. “It’s as difficult as it’s ever been.”
Wendy Paterson runs the School of Education at Buffalo State College. She says enrollment is down in the teaching program.
“Teaching is a lot more complicated than perhaps it used to be, and so being able to find the people who are suitable for the positions that you have available, that’s challenging,” she said. “Whereas in 2009, approximately that far back, we had about 3,200 candidates here at Buffalo State in all categories. Presently we have about 1,200 in all categories.”
Paterson said there’s a need for middle and high school special education teachers, as well as bilingual special education.
“We’re doing everything we can to find out who’s out there who has the dispositions for teaching and we’ll get them to that point,” she said. “So there’s some pretty stiff recruiting going on right now.”
Besides a need for teachers and substitute teachers, Laurrie said there’s a large need for bus drivers. He said the district had to push back the start of the school day because they don’t have enough drivers to get kids to school on time.