MPS says teacher shortage felt harder this year, pool of applicants smaller

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- With the first day of school just around the corner, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is working hard to fill teacher vacancies in certain districts.

"We are making sure every classroom will have a person and have it be staffed at day one," said Adria Maddaleni, Chief of Human Resources at Milwaukee Public Schools.

Maddaleni said the teacher shortage issue at MPS was felt harder this year with the pool of applicants getting smaller. She said filling those empty spots left by retired and resigned teachers has been tough.

MPS currently has about 4,200 teachers. In the last school year, over 400 teachers resigned. That number in 2020 was 315.

"We just have to be more creative which has been successful in expanding our recruitment efforts," said Maddaleni.

She said they've expanded their recruitment efforts appealing to out-of-state and international teachers.

The reasons teachers are leaving the education world in such high numbers, according to Abigail Swetz of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, is credited to the pandemic.

"We've had a trend of difficult things for teachers to deal with for a long time nationally and in the state and again COVID exacerbated that," said Swetz of DPI.

Reasons that preexisted was the want for higher wages, the lack of colleges producing teachers and retirements.

One solution MPS is offering are incentives.

"Individuals, new hires, and new teachers with us at certain schools can get a $6,000 stipend. Also for any new teachers hire that we bring on from outside the state, there's a $5,000 relocation stipend," said Maddaleni.

For long-time educator and principal of Audubon Middle School and High School Leon Groce, a way to keep teacher retention high is by opening doors and opportunities for teacher assistants. He said his school only has two vacancies and are in the process of being filled.

"We've worked with the district, they've done a diligent job of creating now some pipelines where there's a para to bachelor program," said Groce.

Educators said in order to curb the teacher shortage, it's going to take all hands on deck from legislators to the community.

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