help wanted

FULTON COUNTY — The Fulton County School System is hanging up the “help wanted” sign as the COVID-19 pandemic and overall labor shortage impact staffing levels. District leaders are hoping financial incentives will help fill the growing needs.

Specific numbers of shortfalls among teaching staff were not released, but Superintendent Mike Looney acknowledged eight schools were at risk of not being able to open after the Thanksgiving break.

“[Those] schools struggled to open with enough staff, but we have a good bench, and those schools were covered to fullest extent possible,” Looney said.

Fulton Schools has approximately 6,900 teachers among its 14,000 total workforce.

Communications Director Brian Noyes said the labor issues were not directly related to COVID, but an indicator of the overall labor situation across the region. Most metro districts are facing labor shortages, and all are drawing from the same dwindling pool.

Noyes said Fulton Schools hopes its plan to increase the daily rate for teachers will attract more substitute staff to Fulton County while it waits for the crisis to end.

Beginning this month, Fulton Schools will boost the daily pay rate for substitute teachers from $100 to $175. For paraprofessional, clinic and clerical substitutes, the rate increases from $80 to $100.

The Fulton School Board also approved a plan to expand the number of days a substitute can work from 17 to 20 days, and increased the daily rate for long-term subs from $120 to $200.

Noyes said the incentive plan aims to counter what the district hopes is a short-term shortage caused by the pandemic. The program will expire at the end of the school year in May, unless the School Board opts to continue it.

Noyes said the district loses teachers each year to retirement and attrition, and this year is no different. He said since the start of the school year Fulton Schools has had 64 of its 6,900 teachers resign or retire, which is not unusual.

“There’s no indication that FCS is experiencing a teacher attrition due to COVID-19,” Noyes said. “We always have some turnover of teachers at the beginning of the year for a variety of reasons, [and there is] no way for us to know if a separation is COVID19-related.”

To date there have been no deaths of staff related to COVID complications.

Individuals interested in becoming a substitute can find information on the district website (www.fultonschools.org).  Substitutes must meet requirements including a high school diploma (college degree preferred), successful completion of a training course, and references.

Candy Waylock is an award winning education reporter who has covered all things education for Appen Media over the past 20 years. She is an Alpharetta resident.

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