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Teacher shortage in Kern County addressed

FILE - Students are seen in a classroom.
FILE - Students are seen in a classroom.
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Hoping to reverse a teacher shortage situation in Kern County, efforts are underway by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office to reach out to potential candidates and help them become educators.

"We are in great need of teachers in California and in particular here in Kern County," said Toni Smith, assistant superintendent of Human Services with KCSOS.

There are more than 8,000 teachers in Kern County classrooms, and Smith said another 500 new teachers will need to be hired for next school year.

"The highest need is in special education, math and science," said Smith. "But it really is changing, we have a high need across all subject areas."

KCOS is holding monthly special sessions aimed at people who hold a BA degree. People considering a job in teaching learn about the requirements needed, and representatives from various colleges are present with information about programs they offer, including financial aid.

Several of the people present during a session held on Wednesday said they had been laid off from their jobs in the oil industry and were interested in a career in the class room. But others came from a different background.

"I am a bartender," said Dusty Maness who added that she wants to earn her teaching credential so she can work with elementary students. "I'd like to do K through second-grade. I would go further if I can, but high school scares me."

Smith acknowledged that it wasn't that long ago that teachers were being laid off and few districts were hiring.

"We had budget cuts years ago that resulted in teacher layoffs, and that resulted in a lot of individuals deciding not to go into teaching as a career option," said Smith.

Competition among districts to hire new teachers is happening. Some districts such as McFarland Unified are offering signing bonuses for new hires. Bakersfield City School District recently eliminated salary caps as a way to attract experienced educators who did not have to give up their seniority status.

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KCOS will continue to hold its' monthly special sessions at it's offices. There will also be a teacher recruitment fair on Saturday, April 9 from 8 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. to be held at the Larry Reider Education Center at 2000 K Street. For information call (661) 636-4783.

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