Los Lunas schools anticipate possible teacher shortage

LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) –  It’s a problem many schools haven’t had in years, but now one New Mexico school district says it’s anticipating an upcoming teacher shortage.

Los Lunas Schools say more teachers are retiring from its district and fewer are applying for jobs. That’s causing concern about what’s going to happen next school year.

The district’s superintendent Bernard Saiz said while his staff levels are nearly full right now, he’s worried next school year will start with more vacancies that he thinks will be tough to fill.

“Right now our district is holding steady,” said Saiz.

With about 600 teachers and 8,500 students, Saiz said he’s not worried about his staffing levels right now, but he is concerned for what may be coming in just a few months.

“As people situations change over the summer, there’s may not be individuals available for us to pick up at the start of the school year,” said Saiz.

In a recent school board meeting, Saiz told board members that he sees an upcoming teacher shortage for several factors. The first factor is that more teachers are leaving the district.

“We’ve had more people choosing to retire this year than we have seen in past years,” said Saiz.

He blames that on the state’s changing standards.

“The negative publicity towards public education and teachers, in general, and some of the new mandates and requirements that have come out,” said Saiz.

But Saiz says Los Lunas Schools’ recruiters are also seeing a lack of applicants.

“There are just not enough graduates coming out of the colleges to replace them to fill those ranks,” said Saiz.

So what does it mean for Los Lunas Schools? Saiz says he’s readying his staff to fill the gaps at the beginning of the next school year.

“Be prepared in case we get to the beginning of the school year in August and we’re not able to fill some positions, just be forewarned that this situation exists out there,” said Saiz.

It’s just a guess right now, but Saiz says he feels confident things are bound to get tough.

“There are new instructional models being used there’s a new sense of accountability and I think people are having a hard time getting used to that,” said Saiz.

Saiz said recruiting fairs have been one of the most ominous signs. The district says it used to get about four lines of six to eight people waiting to apply. He says this year recruiters have had times where they’ve only seen about 4 to 5 people in a day.

The district said it’s also worried about the number of students going to college to become teachers. He says recruiters have heard that about 90 students have graduated with education degrees from NMSU this year. Saiz considers that to be a very low number. UNM has seen about 405 education graduates in the last school year.

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