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Education leaders brainstorm ways to fix staffing issues

With new technology and regulation changes, leaders try to find an existing staffing issue exacerbated by the pandemic

ST CHARLES, Mo. — Traffic moves swiftly along outside Hardin Middle School in St. Charles, but administrators say something else has slowed down significantly: their hiring process.

 "The dream right now is to fill classrooms," Principal Darryl Diggs said. "The dream right now is to be impactful in regards to what our students need day-to-day."

Diggs has now set out to change that, launching the EDUopenings website, with an app coming on November 1. The new tech was developed through work started by Black Males in Education St. Louis and allows school staff to submit applications, put a face to their name, and record videos introducing themselves to potential employers.

"It only takes a couple of minutes. When I grew up going through education, it would take me close to a weekend if not more to create the package to send to someone to be a part of their interview process," he said.

Paul Ziegler of Education Plus said they're seeing staffing shortages across the board, a problem he worries will get worse as people retire early or take time off for their mental and emotional health.

"It's been very difficult over these last couple of years," he said. "It seems like our teachers were part of being considered heroes early on, and now all of a sudden it seems like they've really been vilified. So it's difficult for our teachers, and their mental health is something that we're concerned about."

Ziegler said movement at the state level could also deepen the hiring pool since substitutes are capped at 550 hours a year.

"I know there are some things that they're looking at statewide to maybe address that or give some different opportunities," he said, explaining "the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education allowed some changes in the way that we can utilize those retired teachers -- and that certainly helped -- but we still filled all those voids yet."

Diggs app will launch just before the traditional recruiting season for classroom staff, but as Ziegler puts it, "realistically in today's environment the hiring processes all year long."