Emergency hires, long-term subs head up hundreds of Hawaii classrooms

Emergency hires, long-term subs head up hundreds of Hawaii classrooms
(Image: Hawaii News Now/File)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In Hawaii's public school system, a certified teacher has a bachelor's degree and has completed a state-approved teacher training program.

But of the 13,320 teaching positions this year, 1,011 are filled with emergency hires or long-term substitutes.

Cindy Covell, the Department of Education's assistant superintendent of talent management, said driving up certifications is one of her highest priority.

"The change I think we will see with our recruiting efforts is more state-certified teachers in every classroom. That's the goal to get to 96 percent or higher. They will have a teacher that is a qualified state certified teacher," she said.

The DOE launched a multi-pronged approach to recruit teachers from the mainland and entice local high schoolers to choose teaching as a career. The University of Hawaii now has a pilot program that accelerates teacher certifications.

But the president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association expects little to change until Hawaii's high cost of living and tough teaching conditions are addressed.

"In a poll that HSTA did, half of our teachers have to work second jobs. If they're working their job and a second job it makes it really hard to afford to stay here. And it's also the working conditions, having 30 or 40 kids in a class," HSAT President Corey Rosenlee said.

One bright spot in the latest DOE report shows a 2 percent improvement in overall teacher retention over a five-year period.

"We're happy to see the number going in that direction. We want to continue to rise. The more we retain the less we have to recruit," Covell said.

The DOE is in the early stages of a teacher mentoring program that pairs new teachers with veterans to get them beyond the growing pains.

But Rosenlee said retention is still matched by resignations.

"How many teachers are teaching out of field? How many teachers are teaching in their first year? We constantly have this churn of new teachers coming in and that's really difficult for our students," he said.

The shortage of certified teachers is especially felt in special education. This year, 311 of those teaching positions lack a certified teacher.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.