HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Department of Education is finishing the last two of five Mainland recruiting trips this week as officials scramble to deal with a growing teacher shortage.
Officials anticipate having as many as 1,600 vacancies this fall. According to DOE officials, there is fierce competition for teachers nationwide due to the improving economy and Baby Boomers who are retiring.
"Teachers are in such demand everywhere. Every school district is trying to steal from the other's district," said Barbara Krieg, assistant superintendent for the Office of Human Resources.
Officials acknowledge that recruiting from the Mainland isn't ideal: Teachers who come for positions are often placed in rural schools, and have to grapple with the state's high cost of living.
"Hawaii has one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the nation and this is more so for people that come from the Mainland," said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. "They say, 'I can't live here' and they leave and we have to go back and recruit, and this cycle just continually happens."
But not all Mainland recruits leave.
Brittney Driggs started teaching special education at Mililani High School six years ago. The New Jersey native was recruited right out of college after getting her bachelor's and master's degrees.
"My first year here, a lot of my fellow colleagues were like, 'Oh, you're going to be a one-year wonder," said Driggs. "I know the pay isn't as good as the Mainland, but I think it's worth it."
There are roughly 13,000 public school teacher positions statewide. As of March 1, there were 410 vacancies with substitutes filling in. According to the DOE, for those who come to the department with teacher training, 40 percent leave within five years.
DOE recruiting teams are meeting with hundreds of potential applicants in Dallas, Chicago, New York, Newark, Portland and Los Angeles.
The department is looking to fill slots in special education, secondary mathematics and secondary science. The state also needs teachers who are willing to work in hard-to-fill positions in rural neighbor island areas and Oahu's Leeward Coast. Financial incentives are available.
The DOE is also working on retaining current teachers and making younger generations aware of education careers in their communities.
"Over time, especially in areas where it's hard to find people who know the area or are willing to stay in the area, we really need to what we call grow our own teachers," Krieg said.
Mililani High School counselor Andrew Satanapong moved to Hawaii four years ago after being recruited on the Mainland.
"I think whether they are coming from abroad or home grown, I think that what it really boils down to is who is going to be passionate, to dedicate their life and their time and their effort?" he said.
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