The next five years will be critical for the Detroit school district as it faces the daunting task of replacing more than half of its 8,500 teachers as they reach retirement age, say officials with the Detroit Federation of Teachers.
This year, the school system is short about 1,200 teachers, and only about 450 applicants from a recruitment fair in June will likely be hired, Jay Edwards, deputy chief executive for human resources, told the Associated Press.
Nationwide, schools need to hire up to 2.7 million teachers by 2009 to keep up with retirement, increased student enrollment and the demand for smaller class sizes, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
"We're seeing more recruitment fairs. And districts are increasing their salaries to compete with other districts," Mike Kozicki, director of employee and legal services for Wayne County Regional Educational Services Agency, told the AP.
The problem is exacerbated by the "baby-boom echo," where children of baby boomers and others have been hitting schools in record numbers in the past several years, with no end in the immediate future.
According to the AP, the shortage has led to larger classes and classes headed by inexperienced teachers or full-time substitutes. And in some cases, teachers are being assigned to subjects in which they are unfamiliar. At least 700 teachers in Detroit schools this year are uncertified. The Detroit School District has a total of about 167,000 students.
"This is a tough job, mentally and physically. You get tired and when the opportunity to leave is there, it's hard to ignore it," Judy Czerkis, 58, an elementary teacher for 30 years, told the AP. Czerkis is one of about 250 teachers expected to retire this summer from Detroit Public Schools.
The situation is not unique to Detroit, as neighboring districts Birmingham, Dearborn, Livonia and Southfield also share the same dilemma, as do school districts statewide, according to Patrick Falcuson, a financial analyst with the Detroit Federation of Teachers. …