By Heather Graves
BROWN COUNTY – From retail stores and restaurants to daycares and school districts – the list of job vacancies throughout the area is long.
Teacher shortages are an issue school systems have grappled with for years – and a global pandemic surely didn’t help.
Many area districts said the amount of vacancies they have this year are comparable to previous years, however, filling them have proven to be a bit more difficult, and some outside the box thinking is needed for recruitment.
Keith Lucius, assistant superintendent for the Ashwaubenon School District, said Ashwaubenon will have staff postings for teacher retirements or resignations at the end of the year, but the numbers are similar to pre-COVID-19 pandemic years.
“During the school year, teachers typically do not leave, that happens after the school year has ended,” Lucius said.
He said it is sometimes a different story for support staff, even more now with the state’s low unemployment rate.
“Support staff and other positions do turn over during the school year, but we do not have any positions that we have been unable to find replacement,” Lucius said. “It is always a challenge to find people for our part-time positions. The current low unemployment rate has made it even more challenging to find candidates. The issue is not COVID, but the low unemployment rate.”
Laurie Asher, superintendent for the Seymour School District, said the district currently has teaching position openings at the intermediate school (grades 3-5).
“We also have a few openings in our support staff, food service and instructional aides,” she said.
Asher said the district’s vacancies are comparable to previous years.
“The difference, I think, this year, is that we have had many more openings throughout the school year,” she said. “In the past, most of the openings occurred between April and August. This past year, we noticed a different trend. We had open vacancies in all areas throughout the school year.”
In addition to newspaper ads and education job posting sites, Asher said the district has implemented a handful of other recruitment methods.
“We have started using more general job posting sites like Indeed,” she said. “The newest thing we tried this year is a group of school districts working with the Greater Green Bay Chamber. We hired an outside agency to run a social media recruitment platform. This targets certain groups based on our criteria, and we have found that TikTok has been our greatest market at this time.”
Asher said it has been more difficult to fill positions recently, especially for support staff.
“I do not think this is related to COVID,” she said. “One of the challenges is that many people apply, but when we call for an interview they are not interested or have another job. If we do schedule an interview, we have a higher percentage of no shows for the interviews. The other challenge is that it has been hard to stay competitive with wages. The private companies are paying more to hire employees, due to their shortage, and we can not keep up with their increases, because of the way the state has set our funding. We are hearing from possible candidates that they can earn more money per hour in most of the companies that are posting jobs, than we are.”
Alyson Tress, human resources director for the Pulaski School District, said the district’s current vacancies are very comparable with previous years and said Pulaski has also partnered with the Chamber and utilized TikTok as recruitment avenues.
Tracy Schrader, administrative assistant for the De Pere School District, said, like other area districts, vacancies within the De Pere School District are similar to previous years, however, support staff positions have been harder to fill.
“For support staff vacancies, we have increased the amount of advertising we have done,” Schrader said. “It has been more difficult to fill support staff positions. We have seen fewer applicants for support staff positions. This is due in part to so many employers looking for entry level support staff. It does seem that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on support staff hiring.”
Lori Blakeslee, director of communications for the Green Bay School District, said vacancies tend to be fairly consistent year over year.
“Like many districts we have hard to fill positions, such as tech ed teachers, bilingual teachers and special education teachers,” Blakeslee said.
Like other area districts, she said Green Bay has collaborated with the Chamber’s recruitment efforts, including its social media advertising campaign.
Blakeslee said the district has also run targeted social media campaigns in major metropolitan areas in Wisconsin and in nearby states, as well as worked with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and St. Norbert College’s education programs.
She said the pandemic has also forced the district to consider other ways to interview and recruit staff.
“Using Zoom to conduct virtual interviews was one significant change,” Blakeslee said. “Virtual career fairs also became a way to reach education students during COVID.”
She said the nationwide teacher shortage has required school districts to become more creative in both the recruitment and hiring of teachers.
“In addition, filling our hourly positions has become more challenging as the unemployment rate is very low, and in response, many employers continue to raise their hourly pay, making it a much more competitive environment,” Blakeslee said.
Several school boards in the area have also approved pay increases for all its staff in part to remain competitive.
Green Bay recently approved a 4.7% increase for its staff, while the Seymour School Board approved a 3% increase just last week.
“The decision to hold a special board meeting to approve the increase for the teacher and paraprofessional bargaining unit was to ensure the district was able to offer a competitive salary as we are currently hiring college graduates for next school year,” Lori Miron, chief human resources officer for the Green Bay School District, said at the March 28 School Board meeting.
Vacancies specific to each district can be found on each of their respective websites.