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Teacher shortage hitting archdiocesan Catholic schools

Hiring drought hits schools

St. Timothy students in class last year during a visit to the parish school by Archbishop Cordileone.

June 23, 2016
Valerie Schmalz

A long-predicted California teacher shortage is now hitting Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, with many parish schools still looking to fill one or more positions at a time when principals usually have next year’s staff roster wrapped up.

“We do have a tremendous shortage,” said Maureen Grazioli, principal of St. Charles School in San Carlos. “The shortage exists not just in the Catholic schools, but in the public schools.” A scan of the San Mateo public school job postings showed about 200 vacancies listed online, she said.

Four years ago the spring archdiocesan teachers’ fair drew “an amazing selection” of teacher candidates, Grazioli said. “Last year and this year there were more principals at tables than visitors,” the San Carlos Catholic school principal said.

The archdiocesan Department of Catholic Schools is in the midst of increasing the salaries across the board for elementary school teachers, for the 2017-18 school year, said Associate Superintendent for Professional and Educational Leadership Bret E. Allen. A draft of the proposed new three-year salary scale is being prepared by an ad hoc committee which will share it with pastors and principals for their input, he said.

The archdiocese serves a total of 25,000 students. It has 59 elementary schools in total, including 49 parish schools, two archdiocesan schools and eight independent Catholic schools. There are four high schools directly under the archdiocese and 10 independent Catholic high schools. The independent Catholic schools set their own salary scales.

“We’re trying to have a balance between what a school can afford and making sure we are giving the teachers a fair, honest wage,” said Allen, who said there are openings at many schools at a time when normally principals have hired all their teachers. Most parishes do not subsidize the parish school any longer so tuition is the primary source of income for elementary schools, he said. Teachers at the four archdiocesan high schools are unionized and have a higher salary scale.

Catholic schools’ mission differentiates them from often endowed private schools who charge higher tuition as well as from taxpayer funded public schools, Allen and Grazioli note. “Many of our families have three and four children. It is important to keep our Catholic schools affordable,” Grazioli said.

Marie Bordeleau, the principal of St. Hilary School in Tiburon, said she has staffed her school for this year, but it is getting harder. She has lost committed teachers who could not afford to live on the salary, Bordeleau said. “The challenge at least for us is that our pay rate is not the same as public schools and a lot of schools are facing the shortage,” she said.

“It has become a real issue in our area,” said Vince Riener, principal of All Souls School in South San Francisco, noting some principals are looking for teachers outside of the U.S. Teachers relocating to the Bay Area from elsewhere in the U.S. are also among new hires, Grazioli said. A California credential requirement that teachers have one semester of public school teaching experience can hamper hiring too, Riener said. The requirement can make it harder for Catholic school teachers hired with a college degree to get their credential while continuing to work at a Catholic school.

A June 10 Catholic San Francisco search for teacher job postings on EdJoin.org, the educator job portal, returned 8,292 job postings for a total of 16,044 job vacancies listed in California. Earlier, in mid-October, two months after the 2015-16 school year stated, EdJoin.org still listed more than 3,900 open teaching positions in California, double the number in 2013, according to “Addressing California’s Emerging Teacher Shortage: An Analysis of Sources and Solutions,” by Linda Darling-Hammond, Roberta Furger, Patrick M. Shields and Leib Sutcher, published by Learning Policy Institute in 2016.

High cost of living and the lure of better paying jobs in the tech sector are factors when teachers consider Bay Area schools, Grazioli said. “What’s sad is that our teachers have difficulty in being able to afford living in the Bay Area. When we do get young teachers, three or four are sharing a house,” Grazioli said.

A first-year Catholic elementary teacher with a bachelor’s degree and a California education credential will make $46,512 in the 2016-17 school years in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Allen said. A starting teacher with just a bachelor’s degree but not yet with a credential will make $41,600, Allen said. San Francisco Unified School District’s salary scale lists a first year starting salary for a credentialed teacher as $52,657.

With 34 percent of teachers statewide age 50 and older, and nearly 10 percent age 60 and older, retirements will continue to be a factor, for the next 5 to 10 years, according to “Addressing California’s Emerging Teacher Shortage.” However, non-retirement attrition is more significant, typically accounting for two-thirds of teachers who leave, the report by the Palo Alto think tank, said.

At the same time, the supply of new K-12 teachers overall is at a 12-year low, partly because of years of layoffs and salary freezes in the public school systems which discouraged students from choosing teaching. That is now being reversed in the improved economy, according to the report.

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