Cobb schools start with full teacher staff

Other school districts still hope to fill vacancies

Cobb County Schools officials say they will be fully staffed when school begins for their students Monday.

That's not the case for the other metro Atlanta school districts, with some starting school with hundreds of teacher vacancies, digging into substitute teacher reserves as the new year gets under way.

Atlanta Public Schools and Marietta city schools open Wednesday and Buford City Schools begin Thursday.

Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton county students will report for the first day on Monday, August 8.

Cobb officials said in June that some 200 vacancies existed. District spokeswoman Donna Lowry said they filled their need by hiring 519 new teachers as well as rehiring 104 teachers who previously worked with the district but have been gone a year or more, among other things.

The DeKalb County School District still had a need for 233 teachers a week before school begins for about a half million children in the region, down from 372 a month ago. Last month, metro Atlanta districts were about a combined 2,000 teachers short.

DeKalb's teacher staffing woes are well documented. According to information on the system's website, more than 900 teachers left the district during the last year, mostly through retirement and teachers not accepting contracts. Superintendent Steve Green said recently that it's not unusual to see people leave when the expectations of them increase. He's touted a plan since his arrival to hold teachers to a higher standard as increased focus is put on better educating the system's 103,000 students.

Though teachers received up to three raises during the previous year, it was not enough to keep some from going to neighboring districts. Pay for a beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree in DeKalb is now higher than some neighboring counties but nearly $2,000 below Atlanta Public Schools.

Clayton County school officials did not return an updated number last week. The district was short 200 teachers last month, noting that a program already in place would help generate more full-time teachers.

Gwinnett County Schools officials said they had 38 vacancies heading into the school year, which begins Aug. 8. Officials said 264 were needed a month ago.

Fulton County Schools officials said they were short 79 teachers heading into the new school year, down from 292 a month ago. Many of those were for harder-to-fill special education positions.

A month ago, Atlanta Public Schools needed 278 teachers ahead of the new school year. A request for updated information Thursday was not returned.

Hiring teachers in Georgia has become harder as districts increase the starting pay to become more competitive while the number of people wanting to become teachers here shrinks. During the 2007-2008 school year, 12,436 students received teaching certificates for the first time in the state. That number has decreased by nearly a third to about 8,500.

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