School District Special Education Department Sees Staff Shortage

Director of Special Services Geoff Smith (far right) speaks to board of education. Kayla Desroches / KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Like many school districts across the state, the Kodiak Island Borough School District is seeing a shortage of teachers this year.

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The beginning of the school year is only a week away, but there are still a number of vacant positions in Kodiak’s Special Education Department.

That’s what Director of Special Services Geoff Smith told the school board at its regular meeting.

“We’ve had several positions this year that have been advertised since the spring that we’ve been unable to fill due to a lack of applicants or uncertified applicants.”

At the meeting, the school board agreed to several contracts in an effort to fill those empty positions.

The school district will use the services of an outside agency to help find employees. It’ll also hire two locals to cover for a permanent speech pathologist during her leave of absence.

Smith suggested a proactive approach to the next hiring cycle, especially when it comes to special education. He said the district should get its name out to recent graduates and job seekers and start that outreach now.

“Because if we wait until January and December, we’re late, we’re already late, and looking at where we’re out right now, even going into the spring, we have vacancies in a handful of applicants within the state. The July job fair in Anchorage had three special ed teachers attend it, and that was it.”

School district superintendent Larry LeDoux said it’s hard to staff positions like those in the special education department. They need certified professionals.

But he said the school district is doing what it can to fill the need.

“So, in all cases we’ll be ready to go on Monday. Kids won’t walk into an empty classroom. But I will say it’s been particularly challenging this year. There’s a teacher shortage nationally, and it’s certainly evident in Alaska.”

He said the school district should reach out more to potential teachers on the island, and encourage Kodiak locals to enter the school system as educators.

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