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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, September 6, 2001

Board questions efforts to recruit teachers

By Alice Keesing
Advertiser Education Writer

Board of Education members yesterday said more must be done to tackle Hawai'i's teacher shortage.

Schools chief Paul LeMahieu says the department has more than 400 vacancies, the worst shortage in years.

Board members asked state Department of Education staff to explore incentives such as housing assistance, to attract teachers.

"You talk about, 'We're looking at, we're looking at,'" said chairman Herb Watanabe. "Are you doing something positive other than just 'looking at?' "

Board member Shannon Ajifu also expressed her concerns about the reception and information potential recruits are getting when they call the department.

"The recruitment can be jeopardized by the first person who took that call, that person has to sound ... genuinely interested in their application," she said.

And while LeMahieu this week said the department is willing to fill vacancies with people who hold a bachelor's degree, a teachers' union official told the board's support services committee that there are qualified teachers who are unable to get work because of the department's out-of-date computer system.

Department staff told the committee they are aware of the problems and outlined their recruitment and retention strategies, including an induction program that would do everything from greeting new employees at the airport, help them find accommodations and orient them to the school and community.

Meanwhile, the department was flooded with hundreds of calls again yesterday after LeMahieu's appeal for applicants with bachelor's degrees.

Hiring unlicensed teachers is widely viewed as a stop-gap measure, and it also could be six weeks to two months before any of this week's applicants make it into a classroom. The personnel office has asked the superintendent for extra staff to help process the hundreds of applicants.