District takes action to fill niche teaching jobs
De Soto USD 232 is feeling the statewide teacher shortage and it's fighting back.
The De Soto Board of Education last week approved 5-0 a proposal to reimburse teachers in the district who complete their special education or English language learners certification. The board waited to approve the policy until negotiations could occur between the district and the De Soto Teacher's Association.
The district needs more teachers certified in special education, district human resources director Mark Schmidt told the board when the proposal was presented in December.
As of December, there were 13 teachers in the district who were not fully certified to teach special education. Eleven of those teachers have completed nine hours or less toward their certification.
Teachers must receive their master's degree in order to be fully certified to teach special education, Schmidt said. However, the state gives provisional licenses in special education to teachers in degree-seeking programs.
"As a provisional measure, we certainly want to have as many fully licensed folks as we can in our schools and if we have somebody that is not fully licensed we want to have someone working with them to provide guidance and assistance," Schmidt said.
Because it requires more than a bachelor's degree, getting teachers who are fully licensed is difficult especially in an increasingly shrinking pool of applicants statewide, Schmidt said.
The tuition reimbursement program includes funding for up to $4,000 per year or $2,000 per semester. It also requires teachers who would receive reimbursement to teach for one year in the district as a special education or English language learner teacher for each semester of reimbursement.
DTA president Justin Love said teachers had a positive response to the program.
"I think it is a good way to help address what are definitely the areas of need for the district," he said. "It's something we hope we then can expand upon or use in the future for other areas.
"Anytime we can get the good teachers we have and keep them it's a good thing for the district and our students."