National teacher shortage has little impact in York


A teacher shortage that's causing strife in larger cities across the country has had minimal effect on districts in York County, school officials said.

While schools in the cities of Los Angeles and Tampa were forced to start the year with substitutes in the classrooms, school districts locally have been able to fill open positions without much additional effort, officials said.

'No problem': Available positions in elementary-level classrooms have been particularly easy to fill, though more specialized upper-level courses such as chemistry, physics, language and higher math courses have been more challenging.

"When it comes to hiring teachers, it all depends on the content," said Carla Myers, director of human resources for Eastern York School District. "We have no problem at all hiring for elementary positions."

Myers cited large elementary education programs at York College and Millersville University as the primary reason behind the larger pool of elementary school applicants.

Elementary school teachers also are certified over a larger grade span, giving them flexibility in applying, noted Southern Area School District Assistant Superintendent Robert Bryson.

West York Area School District Superintendent Emilie Lonardi echoed that sentiment: "The easiest area to hire is definitely elementary. People still seem to like the notion of being an elementary school teacher."

Specialties: One struggle locally comes with more specified disciplines, such as physics, that are very subject-specific, Bryson said.

This year, West York needed to hire a German teacher.

"German teachers are pretty hard to come by," Lonardi said. "We went out of our way to reach out to schools that had strong German programs and looked for those German majors to fill that particular position."

Though the elementary education programs are thriving in local colleges, the same cannot be said for other types of education programs, Myers said.

"I do believe it's that specialized skill set, the specificity of it makes it more challenging, and I don't know that there are (college) programs in this area that specialize in that type of content," Myers said.

Lonardi said she also has found it difficult to hire special education teachers.

Special education "can be the most difficult to teach, and it can also be the most rewarding," she said. "It just takes a special kind of person, and the selection can be slim in terms of candidates."

Substitutes: Bryson said his biggest difficulty comes when it's time to find a long term or day-to-day sub.

"Filling those positions with qualified people is something that we're always working to do," he said.

Myers agreed that hiring substitute teachers has proven a challenge in recent years.

"I have to believe that's because these positions are temporary," she said. "The students that are graduating and filling out our pool of candidates are definitely looking for a full-time, salary position with those benefits."

Reasons: Nationwide, the number of students training to be teachers has declined from 719,081 in 2010 to 499,800 in 2014, according to the U.S. Education Department.

"I think on a big level this is promulgated from our legislative leaders," Lonardi said. "They're always talking about how we need to fix our schools, but a lot of schools are better now than they ever have been — they test more, there are more kids attending, more students are graduating."

Lonardi said she felt the media portrayal of education has likely scared people away from the field.

"The rhetoric surrounding it is just negative, from the president all the way through," she said. "Education was considered a noble profession, but now it seems to be something people are skeptical about, something they stray away from."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at