SMCPS Well-Staffed Despite Statewide Shortages

By Andrea Shiell, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Nov. 20, 2008)—The Maryland State Board of Education declared teacher shortages in 20 subject areas last month, ranging from special education to secondary math and science, but SMCPS Human Resources Director Edward Weiland says that St. Mary’s County has been more fortunate than state numbers would indicate.

“We have been very fortunate,” said Weiland, “one of our goals each and every year is to make sure we’re fully staffed.” Weiland conceded though that certain positions had been more problematic for the county to fill.

“Special education is an area that almost every year we struggle with,” said Weiland, adding that other positions under the umbrella of special education had been even more difficult to fill. “There are other things that come under that area…speech language pathologists for example, that’s one area that we share with other counties as having problems filling,” he said, adding that occupational and physical therapist positions had also been more challenging for the county.

A number of language subjects were added to the state’s list of shortages, including Chinese, German, Italian, and Japanese, but the majority of positions on the list were in content areas that have historically suffered shortages, such as chemistry, math, and physics. “In years past we did have some difficulties,” said Weiland, “but this past year we were very fortunate that we were able to fill those math and science positions.”

Weiland said that he expects statewide shortages to continue in light of the challenges facing this and other counties in terms of finding qualified applicants. “One of the issues with vacancies throughout the state of Maryland is that the state of Maryland does not produce the number of applicants needed to fill those positions,” he said, adding that teaching certification programs in the state were also suffering a shortage of applicants.

State numbers reflect Weiland’s observation. Of the teachers hired in 2007, 4,003 were new teachers who had recently completed teacher training programs. Only 1,234 of them came from Maryland colleges and universities, down from the high of 1,769 in 2002-2003. And currently, MSDE numbers reveal that there are only three teacher education candidates in physics scheduled to graduate from Maryland colleges next spring, and there are no current candidates in computer science or technology education.

Weiland said he expects turnover to stay the same in St. Mary’s because of the number of teachers married to military personnel in the county. “We will have teachers come in with spouses in the military…so any given year we’ll have a number of vacancies due to families needing to transfer, but we always have new teachers coming in…so it’s a plus and a minus,” he said.

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