‘No candidates apply’: Aurora school districts still struggling with staffing shortages

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AURORA | Aurora school districts continue to struggle with staffing shortages, an issue that schools nationwide have faced for years but has intensified since the start of the pandemic.

Both Aurora Public Schools and the Cherry Creek School District have over 200 positions listed on their online job boards, with many listings noting that no one has applied yet.

During a November school board meeting, APS Superintendent Rico Munn said the issue is not as severe as this time last school year, when the district’s administrative employees started working one day a week in schools to help make up the shortfall. However, he said, vacancies are still “a significant concern and a significant issue.”

“Fundamentally one of the biggest challenges is there are just very few people looking to be hired,” he said. “We have a number of vacancies where we have no candidates apply or few candidates apply. That is just a fundamental shift in the marketplace that we’re all trying to figure out and trying to address.”

The bright spot is that the district has seen its substitute teacher pool rebound after it shrunk dramatically during the pandemic, driven in part due to the fact that many substitutes are retired teachers and were hesitant to return to the classroom for health reasons.

Similar to previous years, the hiring shortage in both districts is particularly acute for paraprofessionals and other support positions, which pay less than teaching positions and are often demanding and intensive.

“Our biggest areas of need in hiring right now are for bus drivers, custodians, paraprofessionals and staff who support students with special needs,” APS spokesperson Patti Moon said in an email.

The APS job portal had almost 100 classified (non-teacher) positions listed on its job board in December. Cherry Creek had listings for 90 paraprofessionals, along with openings for a number of special education teachers and other specialized roles.

“It’s hard to say how we compare to last fall because it is constantly changing,” Cherry Creek spokesperson Lauren Snell said of staff shortages in an email. “Anecdotally, we think we are in a better position this year than last year because of the increased para pay. However, we are always hiring for paraprofessionals, food nutrition services, bus drivers, and teachers.”

All Cherry Creek employees received a 5.2% cost of living pay increase for the current fiscal year, and as part of a market study paraprofessionals received additional raises based on their experience levels.

Munn said that APS is working to recruit and retain more teachers, in part by passing a pay increase of 8.5% this summer that was the largest in the Denver metro area.

A group of district level staff was also recently empaneled to try and problem-solve and see whether there are ways the district can streamline or improve its hiring process. Along with district principals and administrative staff, the group also included board member Vicki Reinhard and Aurora Education Association president Linnea Reed-Ellis.

In an email, district spokesperson Corey Christiansen said that the group has been meeting over the past month to discuss potential solutions. 

“It’s too early to share any specifics from the meetings, but we’re optimistic about the results of the discussions,” he said.

Reed-Ellis said that staffing shortages are particularly concerning because they increase the burden on the existing teachers and staff, who have to take on more work to fill the gap.

“It’s really straining the people we have and we worry that it could further drive away educators because the workload is just so difficult,” she said.

 

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Rick
1 month ago

That’s BS. My daughter came to Cherry Creek schools as a sub and they would not hire her full time because then they would have no subs. She has since moved out of the profession.