JACKSON, MI – Jeff Beal understands that attracting high-end talent in a profession with a shrinking number of qualified candidates is tough under any circumstances, let alone during a global pandemic.
That’s why Jackson Public Schools is looking to sweeten the deal by offering new teachers up to $10,000 in incentives if they choose to work in the district.
JPS is offering successful applicants a one-time “sign-on” bonus of $500 to cover moving fees, followed by a one-time cash bonus of $5,000 after the completion of their first year in the district. Additional bonuses of $2,500 and $2,000 are offered at the successful completion of teachers’ second and third years with the district, respectively
By the end of their third year, Beal said the district has a good idea if it is going to keep a teacher on board. In Michigan, teachers are eligible for tenure after five years, but they are required to have three successful evaluations, making those first few years “mission critical” for many young teachers, Beal said.
“When you’re looking at hiring as many teachers as we’re going to be hiring in the next several weeks, I don’t want to end up in August or September hoping someone is going to walk through the door,” Beal said.
“We intend to be very aggressive in the marketplace because quite frankly, less folks are going into education as a field and the colleges and universities are churning out less students. We want to make Jackson Public Schools a first-stop destination for all of the blue-chip talent out there.”
JPS is looking to hire around 30 teachers between now and Aug. 1, Beal said. Every year, the district anticipates around 10 to 12 retirements, he said, while about 10 to 12 jobs currently are open for next year already.
JPS is planning to hire another eight to 10 positions in an effort to reduce some class sizes, acknowledging the need for social distancing in the classroom with the continued presence of COVID-19 in the community, Beal said.
The bonuses are JPS’ way of differentiating itself in an increasingly competitive job market that is seeing fewer teachers candidates applying for openings, Beal said.
“That has been a growing concern, not just at JPS, but really across the state and country for a very, very long time,” Beal said. “When I got my teaching job back in the ’90′s, there were dozens of applicants for every position. Today, we could have one, two or maybe zero applicants for a position. I’ve got a couple of open positions right now we’re actively pursuing that have been open all year.”
With JPS targeting five days of in-person instruction for the fall, Beal said it is important the district has the staff to accommodate the district, acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic will still be an issue.
Teacher shortages are prevalent at JPS and throughout the state, Beal said, which is symptomatic of the current employment landscape beyond education.
“I think that’s part of the challenge we run into in the labor market, all around,” he said. “There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not looking for bus drivers. Those support staff positions are every bit as vital to us as any of the others, because they help to make our district run.”
Several early childhood organizations and all 15 local schools in the Jackson County Intermediate School District are expected to participate in a one-day virtual job fair the ISD is hosting with Michigan Works! Southeast from noon to 5 p.m. on April 28. More details on the job fair will be available as the event draws closer.
“Like Michigan and the rest of the nation, we are facing a teacher shortage,” said Kaci Babineau, Jackson County Intermediate School District marketing and special projects coordinator. “Schools are having a hard time finding qualified candidates and a lot of people are retiring. We thought having all of us in one place would make it a great benefit for job seekers looking to get into the education field.”
Ultimately, Beal believes the education field is still rewarding and offers a competitive wages. JPS teacher salaries start at more than $40,000 and pay into the low-$80,000-range.
“What we recognize is that the education system as a whole has kind of been beaten up by politicians on both sides of the aisle about fixing something that needs to happen,” he said. “School districts are responsible for the health and wellbeing of folks with their activities outside of school in an area we can’t control. There’s a lot of pressure out there that would tell people this isn’t a great profession, but I would argue that it’s a phenomenal profession.”
For more information on teacher and other job openings at JPS, visit the district’s website.
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