Shot of a young teacher educating a group of elementary children

By Simone Garza, The Community Voice

With classes beginning in one week, the KCK Public School District faces a teacher shortage.  

Last week, district representatives said they still need to fill between 30 to 50 teaching positions. It also needs more substitutes, paraprofessionals and instructional aids.

Over in Missouri, KCPS are also experiencing a shortage.  They reportedly still need to fill about 60 teaching positions, and similarly have openings for instruction aids, substitutes, athletic coaches, and cafeteria and building maintenance workers 

What Kansas City school districts are experiencing is part of a national trend.  Even before COVID-19 hit, teachers were leaving the profession at an increasing rate.  

In the late 1980s, annual teacher turnover was 5.6%, but it has grown to around 8% over the past decade.

The stress of  teaching through a pandemic has driven away even more teachers.   About 1 in 6 teachers expressed that they would likely leave their job pre-pandemic, but this increased to 1 in 4 by the 2020-21 school year. 

While teachers continue to leave classrooms, fewer people are signing up to replace them, often citing low pay, the amount of work required and the lack of support for teachers who are often forced to deal with disruptive students.  

Filling the Teacher Shortage

First, KCK is looking at the overall allocation of teachers needed based on enrollment numbers on a school-by-school basis, to see how teachers can be moved around to best meet staffing needs.  

 A second strategy also being used in KCPS is incorporating retired teachers who are interested in returning to the classroom.. 

KCK has held two open house/recruitment fairs for retired teachers.  Retired teachers are being recruited for both parttime and fulltime positions.   The good news is that returning retired teachers can still retain the KPERS retirement benefits if they’ve met the KPERS waiting period.  

Lessening Pandemic Stress

“We are now on the heels of the pandemic. It feels like things are moving back to normal again and staff are re-energized for the school year,” said Eric Tyler, the HR recruiter of KCK Public School District.

Despite being understaffed, Tyler said the school district doesn’t see the possibility of students doing virtual learning right now an additional source of stress for teachers.  . 

“The school district is planning more things in-person. We feel like this is the most effective way in order to lead our students within the classroom,” he said.

To help deal with job related stress, KCK teachers receive disability days they can use for mental health days, to get away from the school atmosphere to ensure they are mentally and physically ready to lead students  and their classrooms.  

Looking Forward 

The school district is looking for high quality teaching candidates to instruct in a diverse work environment for this school year and the next.

“We are looking for college seniors who are currently thinking about student teaching and if they want a student to teach with KCKPS,” he said.

Candidates may be able to receive a full time position while preparing to graduate from college. 

For retired teachers interested to apply, use link:

https://www.kckschools.org/hr/join-our-team

Simone Garza

Simone Garza is a reporter in our Kansas City office. In addition to general reporting on Kansas City’s African-American community, she reports on economic inclusion for the African American community....