District Associate Superintendent Jose Delfin, presenting the item at the July 13 board meeting, said the two positions typically are the most difficult to fill.
Nevada Revised Statute 286.523, passed in 2001, allows the Public Employee Retirement System to rehire retired employees and get PERS benefits while working full-time to fill a critical labor shortage.
Delfin said among the past 13 years he’s served in Carson City, at least 10 of those years there always has been a dire need for special education teachers. He described the job as labor intensive with a great need for individual education plans and said he always pools for talent and interest at University of Nevada, Reno or other college graduations among education majors who seek to work to become SPED teachers. But he always returns without much success, he added.
Recruitment and posting efforts also are made online on college and career websites, at recruitment fairs or through word of mouth and within the region, he said and even try to recruit within the district’s own staff.
Currently, there are nine special ed teacher vacancies and no qualified applicants, and the district has an average of six vacancies per year. According to Delfin’s application, based on the district’s history, high transiency and turnover have created greater demand than supply in special education teachers.
“We beg, borrow and steal wherever we can to find some good quality special education teachers for our district,” Delfin told the board.
Trustee Stacie Wilke-McCulloch asked why there has not yet been an application put in for special ed paraprofessionals, but Delfin said he needs to continue to see a trend for a few more years on that position first.
Bus drivers are equally hard to hire for currently, and Delfin said if there are no drivers, the transportation department doubles up on routes as buses become more populated. It then takes longer to collect students. The district advertises in the area, and Delfin has been making appearances on local television stations calling for applicants.
According to Delfin’s presentation, the district has four school bus driver vacancies and no qualified applicants, and the district averages two school bus driver vacancies per year that go unfilled.
The driver position requires training to receive the commercial driver’s license.
Wilke-McCulloch asked whether the district needs to offer pay increases or examine its budget further to become competitive particularly for school bus drivers who only work in the mornings and afternoons transporting students to and from school. She took note of the 66% occupancy rates school buses are bound to and said she didn’t see this trend improving.
Delfin said he has collaborated with Superintendent Richard Stokes and fiscal services director Andrew Feuling about offering hiring bonuses, but Wilke-McCulloch was nervous about remaining competitive and worried that prospective applicants thought the district “wasn’t trying.”
“I know the funding formula is not in our favor, but maybe we just need to look at different ways to promote different things,” she said. “We still want to keep the cream of the crop because this is the best district ever. So we have to keep that bar so I want to keep people advised that we are looking at those things.”
“At $14 an hour, let’s say, as starting pay, whether you’re looking in nutrition or custodian, when you total up the benefits … in PERS, you’re looking at $50,000 that is spent for that particular $14-an-hour job … as a full-time employee here in the district because once you have your foot in the district, you can move up to any job you want in the district,” Delfin said, adding there would be more openings as others age out and leave vacancies.
He also added some have started in classified and move up in paraprofessional positions, go on to become teachers and finally become administrators, which is the district’s “best success” at hiring within Carson City.
Trustee Mike Walker said the district as a whole is battling a bigger issue for now.
“The job has become devalued and not real respected in lots of ways, and it’s tough to encourage young people to want to go into a career like this when you could probably make a lot more money when you look at college careers,” he said.
The board approved the motion unanimously.