DeKalb schools evaluates where teachers are needed in hiring ‘pause’

041822 Stone Mountain: DeKalb County Board of Education conducts an in-person board meeting Monday, April 18, 2022, in Stone Mountain, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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041822 Stone Mountain: DeKalb County Board of Education conducts an in-person board meeting Monday, April 18, 2022, in Stone Mountain, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The DeKalb County School District is pumping the brakes on hiring new teachers to fill its more than 500 job openings as it reshuffles some of the teachers it currently has.

Interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley said her staff is trying to figure out where teachers are needed and where they’re not.

It’s a “temporary hiring pause,” said Tekshia Ward-Smith, who was brought in to help the district evaluate its staffing levels this summer.

“We’re not saying we cannot hire,” she told the school board this week. “We’re saying we cannot hire right now.”

The district did not say how many teachers will be affected by the reshuffling. Last year, 59 teachers were reassigned because of the enrollment shift. Deborah Jones, president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators and a 26-year veteran of the school district, said that was unusual.

“It doesn’t happen every year but it does happen,” she said last year. “It is the worst that I have seen.”

Enrollment in DeKalb schools after the pandemic declined by roughly 5,000 students. The district expected more students to return last year, Ward-Smith said. DeKalb is the state’s third-largest school district, with nearly 94,000 students.

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“There was a growing disconnect between what people were thinking they were entitled to versus what they actually needed,” explained Chief Financial Officer Charles Burbridge. “Some of the numbers were on autopilot.”

As a result, there will be some shuffling. Teachers who currently have a job in the district will have a position for the coming school year based on district needs — but it may not be at the school or in the role they were expecting. Teachers in areas like special education, math and career technology, which are positions districts usually struggle to fill, will not be affected.

District staff expects the process of identifying what kind of staffing each school needs, working with principals to determine who will be affected and finding alternate positions for those teachers if needed will take several weeks.

DeKalb has openings for 562 teachers as of this week, more than any school system in metro Atlanta, according to district data. Approximately 250 people are waiting to be officially hired by the district, Ward-Smith said. Those people should still have jobs with the district, too.

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The discrepancies over how many teachers are actually needed at each school were realized during a transition to a new computer system, Burbridge explained.

“This has been very much eye-opening,” Tinsley said.

The district has almost 1,500 total job openings as of this week.

There will be a job fair for openings in facilities, operations and transportation from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday at the district’s offices in Stone Mountain. Candidates can register on the district’s website.