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Local school districts not hurting for staff

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Anniston Schools Superintendent Dr. Ray Hill says that despite losing a number of teachers and other full-time staffers to retirement this past school year, there is no shortage of workers this year. 

“We have been able to fill most of our positions with the exception of four elementary school positions,” Hill said. “We also have some Special Education positions yet to fill, but we are not hurting too bad.”

By contrast, the Williamson County School District in the neighboring state of Tennessee, which features the city of Franklin, a large suburb of Nashville, is fighting to fill hundreds of staff vacancies. Most of the positions are part-time service positions.

According to a report published on the WTVF media website in Franklin, the new school year kicked off with three food service workers under contract to help serve more than 600 students at one local school. Parent volunteers have had to step in to lend a helping hand. 

And it's not just the cafeteria where there are worker shortages.

The Tennessee school district is also in need of bus drivers, before and after-school childcare workers, psychologists, special education teachers and foreign language instructors. The lack of bus drivers has resulted in students returning home from school much later than usual.

Hill said Anniston is not facing such difficult times — at least not yet. 

“We are good on bus drivers because we have a contractual service with a local company,” he said. “Probably our biggest issue is finding enough substitute teachers.”

Talladega County Schools Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Lacey said teaching subs have been “difficult to find” since the start of this school year. 

“We have recently increased the rate of pay for subs, including bus substitutes, in an effort to increase interest,” she said. “Certified teachers in the areas of Special Education, speech and elementary education, have also been in short supply.”

Jacksonville Schools Superintendent Mike Newell said all of the district's staff positions are filled at this point.

"We have added an instructional technology position, which we hope to fill soon. We have been blessed.

“As for bus service, we also contract out and I'm not aware of any problems. All our routes are covered at this time,” Newell said. “Occasionally, there is a shortage of teaching subs, but that is the case on the best of days. COVID has made finding subs especially more difficult. Some people don't want to be around a school environment, so they are taking a break from subbing.”

As for what's happening in Tennessee, Newell sympathizes.

“My heart goes out to those other districts that have problems finding help,” he said.

Piedmont Schools Superintendent Mike Hayes said the only shortage that his school district is currently experiencing is with substitute teachers. He did not elaborate.