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Mississippi school district OKs $5K incentive for recruiting

May 22, 2022 GMT

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi school district has approved a $5,000 incentive to help recruit teachers.

Natchez-Adams School District will pay some teachers in areas of “critical need” a $5,000 sign-on bonus to come work for them following a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees on Tuesday.

The bonus is specific to English, mathematics and science teachers and will be issued “based on funding availability,” Deputy Superintendent Zandra McDonald Green said, The Natchez Democrat reported. It would be in addition to a historic teacher pay raise that legislators passed at the state level.

The district’s biggest area of need is math teachers in sixth through 12th grade, Superintendent Fred Butcher said.

With 16 vacancies for certified teachers, he added, “We’re in better shape than we were this time last year.”

However, the Mississippi Department of Education has said the district would lose its accreditation if no changes to its staffing were made, said Cassandra Tennessee, the district’s assistant supervisor of human resources.

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One reason the district had been cited is the school accreditation guidelines were relaxed during the pandemic and teachers were moved around to accommodate classroom changes to keep students safe. Consequentially, some teachers are now teaching multiple classes outside of their areas of certification, Butcher said.

The district needs to correct those non-compliant deficiencies or they will be put on probation when the new school year starts in the fall, Tennessee said.

“In order to keep the district on the accreditation status that we are now in good standing, MDE is allowing districts an opportunity to clear these areas by submitting a corrective action plan to the office of teaching and reading by June 3,” she said

Challenges with certified teacher shortages are not new to the district because of the pandemic. The district faced similar problems with staffing in 2016, Butcher said.

“It’s very difficult to find certified teachers,” he said, adding another problem the district faces is teacher retention.

School administrators have helped many non-certified teachers until they become certified. However, when they do become certified, they move away to another school district, Butcher said. The bonus the board approved Tuesday is one method to address that problem.

In other matters, the board also unanimously extended Butcher’s contract for another year at the same salary of $10,500 per month. Attorney Bruce Kuehnle said Butcher’s previous contract would have expired on July 1.