Wood County Schools facing special education teacher shortage | News, Sports, Jobs

PARKERSBURG — There are currently 16 openings in Wood County for teachers within the special education department.

There are three branches in the special education department with open positions. There are two autism positions, two gifted positions, and 12 multi-categorical (multi cat) positions available.

“Multi-categorical is a special education position,” said Wood County Schools Human Resources Certification & Teacher Licensure Administrator Stephanie Cunningham. “It’s a classroom teacher who can teach a variety of students with behavior disorders, mental impairment, and other heath impairment and learning disabilities. The State of West Virginia Certification Office calls all of those as one big group, multi categorical disabilities.”

All three of the classifications require a different certificate specific to that classification to teach in those positions.

Although it’s been difficult to fill these positions, this doesn’t appear to be a problem with other positions.

“We’re doing fine in the other areas,” Assistant Superintendent and Director of Human Resources John Merritt said. “We seem to be going through a typical summer hiring process.”

It was reported to the Wood County Board of Education during its June 14 regular meeting that 27 new teachers have been hired and there are plenty of viable applicants for other positions, including service personnel, but the district is still short on special education teachers.

Speaking Wednesday, Merritt said he believes one of the major issues is that more multi cat positions are being added while people keep transferring out of special education.

“We’re losing teachers in those positions, and then we’re adding more positions.” Merritt said. “So I think that’s the biggest issue right now. We have so many openings in multi-categorical work and we don’t have a lot of applicants.”

Merritt believes one of the reasons teachers may be leaving special education might have to do with new laws that dictate how these classrooms are monitored. There are currently two cameras that record everything in these classrooms and special education are the only classrooms that typically have cameras in them. If there was an issue, it allowed administrators to review the footage and find those issues, but new laws now require administrators to watch 15 minutes a week.

“I think that causes some apprehension for people when they know they’re being watched.” Merritt said. “I don’t know if that’s a big draw for people to leave the field, I’m not exactly sure, but I don’t think it’s a helpful factor.”

Another issue is the added needs of students as their individual education program (IEP) increases.

“The IEPs drive the instruction, and if there so many minutes in a student’s IEP, a teacher can only have so many students on their caseload.” Cunningham said. “So once a teacher goes over caseload additional teachers are required.”

Some suggestions for these issues was presented to the board during the June 14 meeting but the school board requested a proposal to be drawn up and brought to them at a later meeting in July.

The next Wood County Schools Board of Education meeting is scheduled for June 28. The board meets at the 13th and Plum Streets offices in Parkersburg and the meeting is open to the public. This issue is not expected to be addressed at that meeting.

Douglass Huxley can be reached at dhuxley@newsandsentinel.com

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