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Over 500 job openings need to be filled in Montgomery County as school districts face shortages

MCPS Superintendent Monifa McKnight held a press conference Monday morning to discuss the district's tactics to come back from the shortages.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — With less than three weeks before students return to school in Montgomery County, the district is working to fill more than 500 vacancies, including more than 150 teaching positions. 

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Monifa McKnight held a press conference Monday morning to discuss the district's tactics to make a comeback from the shortages.

"MCPS is a great school system, a great place to work because of the great people we have here in the school system," McKnight said. "Those people are our teachers who make a big commitment to serve our students every day. Our bus drivers, who are the first faces that our students see when they begin the school day."

McKnight emphasized that the school districts are seeking to fill approximately 246 full-time teaching positions in a competitive environment, but said she has 89 candidates currently in the approval process. She said MCPS has an average starting salary of $62,000, and offers professional development to staff. 

"The teaching vacancies are reducing every single day," McKnight said. "Right now, there are people handing out cards, following up with phone calls, making conversations, and making connections to those who are interested in working here." 

In a statement to WUSA9, however, the Montgomery County Education Association questioned why the superintendent had waited until now to highlight the urgency to hire. 

"The increasing strain and burnout among those who remain will make it difficult to provide the excellent education our students deserve," MCEA wrote in its statement. "While we appreciate the commitment to wellness that Dr. McKnight discussed during her press conference, the reality is that to ensure staff wellness, educators must be compensated fairly and treated with dignity."

The association claimed that more than 1,100 teachers have left the district in the last year. 

"And many are not just leaving MCPS, they are leaving the profession for better pay and better working conditions in other sectors," MCEA said. 

McKnight cited COVID as one of the reasons school districts across the country are seeing staff shortages. On July 20, the open teacher positions were at 396, but as of Aug. 8, the vacancies have declined to 157, as well as 300 other open support staff positions. The largest need is for special education teachers with at least 119 vacancies, followed by Elementary teachers and school psychologists next. 

"The shortages of teachers in special education is not a new challenge. We talked about the importance of working on this problem from two perspectives," McKnight said. "One, being a part of the pipeline. So developing partnerships with the universities. Then we have those who are retired and come back to work as substitutes who do have those specialized areas of special education training."

Bus driver shortages have also been a growing problem across the country for years. MCPS had 50 openings, with 34 applicants currently in training;16 drivers are still needed to transport students. 

Montgomery County Public Schools plans to utilize substitute teachers for the upcoming school year, while the shortages are worked out. McKnight said the school districts provided training and numerous incentives for substitutes to feel prepared for the upcoming school year.

Dr. McKnight said despite the need for educators, class sizes will not increase.

“We're going to maintain our commitment to the class size agreement," she said. "We believe that in Montgomery County Public Schools, we want the students to be able to have the experience that they deserve to have. And so that's why we've always, by our board of education, agreed on our class sizes. And so we're going to make sure we maintain that so we are not going to go above."

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