One SD91 high school was forced to collapse its Tech Ed course due to lack of teaching candidates. (Eddie Huband photo/Lakes District News)

One SD91 high school was forced to collapse its Tech Ed course due to lack of teaching candidates. (Eddie Huband photo/Lakes District News)

Teacher shortages for SD91

Recruitment and retention issues causing problem

School District 91 (SD91) is struggling to fill teacher positions due to a shortage in potential hires.

SD91 Assistant Superintendent Mike Skinner prepared a report recently to the B.C. Board of Education, outlining some of the reasons for the issue, as well as providing recommendations to fix it.

The problem dates back to a Supreme Court decision from 2016, in which the B.C. Teachers Federation won a challenge against the province to essentially restore a previous collective agreement from 2004, changing class size, composition and specialist ratio.

As a result, 3,700 new teaching hires were required in the 18 months that followed the court decision, causing the province to go from having a net surplus of teachers to quickly being in a deficit position. According to Skinner’s report, retention of teachers has declined over the past several years due to the fact that many teachers moved as opportunities opened up across the province, especially Southern B.C..

“The district has traditionally hired from Southern B.C. and Vancouver Island, and the current market [New teaching opportunities] has allowed many teachers to leave SD91 and return south to be closer to family,” he stated.

Fast forward to 2021, and the problems have continued to get worse. In Skinner’s report, it says that in the 2020-2021 school year, there were 1,141 days where an un-certified substitute teacher worked in SD91, compared to 638 from 2016. The report also states that there have been 23 new hires so far for the 2021-2022 school year, a number that had been above 30 in each of the last four years.

To make matters worse, SD91 anticipates that a record number of teachers are positioned to retire over the next decade, as there are currently 89 teachers working in the district from ages 51 to 65.

During spring planning, SD91 anticipated requiring 15 to 18 new teachers, but unexpected leaves and resignations left the district requiring over 35 for the new school year. Two teachers also resigned in late August due to better compensation rates at independent schools.

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Additionally, one high school had to collapse its tech ed course, as a new hire could not be found after months of advertising.

“Recruiting and retaining teachers in SD91 will continue to face challenges for the foreseeable future. Student enrollment is projected to increase in many parts of the province, which will continue to put pressure on recruitment into the next decade,” said Skinner in his report.

Some of the recommendations Skinner made to the board of education included advocating to the Ministry of Education for financial support for recruitment and retention initiatives, hiring a full-time district recruitment and retention coordinator, and creating district policy to financially support teachers with educational graduate degree programs with an agreement clause that requires a minimum number of years of service to the district.

Currently the district is looking for multiple full-time on call teachers, especially in Burns Lake. Job postings for on call positions have been made by SD91 for Lakes District Secondary School (LDSS), Grassy Plains Elementary, Decker Lake Elementary and William Konkin Elementary.

A posting has also been made for a part time Carrier language and culture teacher at LDSS.

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Eddie Huband
Multimedia Reporter
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