Despite pandemic Hermosa Beach schools spared from national teacher shortage
by Dan Blackburn
California, the biggest state with the most schools and students, also has the worst teacher shortage in the nation.
According to a recent report by the Learning Policy Institute, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit education research group, “a staggering 80 percent of California school districts are impacted by shortages.” That means an estimated 4,100 teachers are now needed in California.
Across the country, more than 300,000 new teachers are needed to close the gap, a study by the Economic Policy Institute shows.
It’s a malady not suffered by Hermosa Beach schools, however.
“A teacher shortage hasn’t really been an issue for us,” Hermosa Beach City Schools Superintendent Jason Johnson said this week. “We really have not had a severe teacher turnover, either.”
While in larger districts, such as Los Angeles, shortages of instructors might reach into the hundreds or even thousands, the Hermosa Beach district presently has only three positions open. And one of those is a supervisory role, according to Johnson. The district currently has 1,351 students, and a 24-1 teacher-to-student ratio.
Johnson said he still struggles to fill spots such as special education and substitute teachers.
“Those, I would say, have been the challenge,” Johnson said. “It has required us to kind of get out of the box to find those people. We’ve gone to agencies to locate contract services for education and classified staff. We’ve been more aggressive about finding these people and bringing the district to them.”
Largest shortage impacts can be found in districts in communities of color and in rural areas, the Learning Policy Institute found.
“I would say our cities’ districts are lucky in that for the most part we retain our staff. You are going to lose some by attrition and turnover every year.”
Johnson said he believes the community itself makes a position in his district worth seeking.
“This is a desirable place to work. It doesn’t mean that we’re without any of the problems that education in general is facing. But yes, this is a hard time for educators, especially teachers,” Johnson said.
Teachers are experiencing unique stresses these days, he noted.
“That’s been brought on by COVID related things. They are on the front line, along with our parents in dealing with this. Also, we have very high expectations for our school district, our staff, our parents and our students. Teachers put tremendous pressure on themselves and that causes burnout.”
“But staff has risen to the challenge. There’s a sense of ownership in our community.”
Johnson said welcomes the challenge: “I’m glad I’m in the foxhole.” ER