Neuqua manages drop in potential hires

Abigail McArthur-Self, News & Copy Editor

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According to the Illinois State Board of Education, it is becoming increasingly difficult for schools to find proper staffing.

Despite this, Neuqua and other district 204 schools have managed to fill positions — even in vulnerable departments like world language and special education.

World language is a difficult department to fill because teachers are “less interchangeable,” Tonya Koppin, the department chair, explains. A high school English teacher, she says, can teach multiple types of English classes, but most French teachers cannot teach a Chinese class. A few teachers in the district are certified to teach multiple languages, but they are not the majority.

World language, like many non-core subjects, also has a smaller applicant pool to begin with. Suzanna Laskowski, an ASL teacher at Neuqua, explains that many people who study languages like ASL do not become teachers. They go into more profitable fields like interpreting.

Despite these challenges, Neuqua has all of its language classes for this school year covered. One method of managing that is sharing teachers between schools. This is an effective method, Laskowski believes, because it allows the district to offer full time positions, which are more desirable for most potential applicants than part time ones.

The special education department is another department vulnerable to shifts in the hiring field. John Atchley, the department chair, points out that special education is different from other departments for a number of reasons. They often have a “smaller student to teacher ratio,” and he stresses the importance of finding a teacher or teaching assistant who is a good fit for the students at Neuqua.

Special education professionals in schools also have different certification requirements. Aside from the “high level academic requirements,” the school has for all its teachers, Atchley explains, special education teachers need an LBS1 certification in the field of special education. Some teachers also get specific certifications to work with individuals with certain conditions.

The special education department has lost previous colleagues and potential candidates over salary issues as well. District 204 varies in wages from other local districts, leading some educators to seek jobs elsewhere. Plainfield district 203, for example, pays teachers an average of $14,900 more per year than district 204 does. Although wages are not the only factor in an applicant’s final decision, it does play a role in their considerations.

The school itself is often a factor in attracting potential candidates. Atchley explains that Neuqua Valley manages to keep a full staff through “time and effort” in the hiring process and by “showcasing the culture of the department, our school and the Neuqua spirit.”

Another issue, according to a Chicago Tribune interview with district 204 superintendent of human resources Doug Eccarius, is late enrollments. Course schedules for teachers and students are normally planned in the spring of the year before, so summer enrollments can be hard for the schools to adjust to in time for the academic year. The 204 schools work at making sure every student has a place and the proper accommodations before the year starts.

Regardless of any difficulties, Koppin says that she is “proud of the teachers [Neuqua] has,” and that the school still manages to find “the best of the best.”