The DeSoto County School District (DCS) is making a strong push to get next year’s classrooms filled with good, quality teachers.
That effort is fueled by what has become an annual event for the state’s largest public school district. The third annual DCS Teacher Career Fair, which this year will be held on Tuesday, March 3, from 3-5 p.m., will be held in the district boardroom at Central Services, 5 East South Street in Hernando.
At least 200 prospective teachers have already signed up to attend with more expected, district officials said. That is above last year’s 152 who attended, although, in the first year of the career fair, 265 aspiring instructors attended.
DCS Supt. Cory Uselton explained the concept of having applicants come and meet with administrators is done so both the possible employers and potential employees can meet and learn more about each other ahead of a formal, sit-down interview.
“The administrators want to promote their school and their school zone and at the same time, they want the best teachers,” Uselton said. “Teachers have a really good opportunity to come in and see who they connect with and see what really interests them about each school.”
The career fair is not the only way DeSoto County Schools will look to find new teachers. Somewhat more traditional methods are also used.
“We still go out to colleges to recruit teachers but we’re seeing more and more of a teacher shortage each year in Mississippi,” said Uselton. “So we want to be proactive in hosting an event where these prospective teachers meet all of the principals in one place.”
Administrators are grouped into each of the eight attendance zones, primary through high school. Applicants are then able to walk up to each area and learn of what openings are available.
While not always possible, Uselton said DCS looks to have much of its instructor roster filled ahead of the start of classes on Aug. 5 this coming school year.
“Most of our issues in filling teacher positions are when a job comes open during the school year,” Uselton said. “When you get late in the summer when an opening comes up, in late July, there are not as many applicants for positions so we want to get as many positions filled as early as possible.”
Uselton added there are some areas of instruction where there are fewer applicants available, so the district has to work harder to fill possible openings.
“There are also those areas with certification where there are fewer applicants available,” the DCS superintendent said. “We’ve seen a shortage of mathematics teachers over the last few years so we’ve been proactively seeking math teachers this entire school year for the 2020-21 school year.”
Applicants can’t come to a teacher career fair if they don’t know about it, and Uselton said DCS has been active in getting the word about the event out to those who need to know about the event.
“We’ve been promoting through social media throughout the entire school year and we also have been in touch with colleges of education throughout Mississippi to make sure that leaders know about it and they’re communicating that information to their students,” Uselton said.
The quality of life in the county and the school district’s high rankings, both as a district and for individual schools, are selling points for new teachers to come to DeSoto County Schools. Uselton added moves in salary, both locally and at the state level, may make working in the district more appealing.
“We raised our local supplement from the district level by $1,000 for our teachers and teacher assistants in the spring of 2018,” Uselton explained. “Teachers got a raise from the state Legislature last year and there’s a lot of talk of a potential raise this year. We want to stay competitive with our local supplement and we feel like we are.”
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.