School districts across Connecticut are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill multiple teaching positions.
It’s why the state Board of Education is looking to pull back on requirements for teaching certifications. The hope is to create less traditional routes into the classroom and fill a high number of teaching vacancies.
"It’s kind of a balance. We want to make sure have a good number of candidates, but we also want to make sure that the quality is maintained," Dr. Michael Graner, superintendent of Groton Public Schools, said.
Graner wants to hear more about the Board of Education’s plan before passing judgment. He said Groton usually has a healthy applicant pool but he has been part of Connecticut communities where there wasn’t.
"There were literally times where we had no candidates. For example, I remember we had a physics job," he said.
A representative for the board confirmed science, math, bilingual and special education are the four teaching areas that districts have had trouble filling for years. They’re looking at ways to attract candidates of diverse race, ethnicity, and language.
"What is the type of student that we want to really have at the very end? And backward design," Dr. Jose Ortiz, principal at C.B. Jennings Dual Language and International Elementary Magnet in New London, said.
Ortiz said he struggles to find people qualified to teach a dual language curriculum. Some of his students are taught in Spanish and English to become, what he calls "dual literate" and make them better-rounded. He agrees there needs to be a change and wants to weigh in with the board.
"We need to really look outside of the box," Ortiz said.
Some parents want to see their children with more individualized classroom time.
Rebekah Morales, a mom of a New London junior and senior, said she’d be on board with a certification overhaul "as long as (the teachers are) qualified and they’re able to be able to teach our children."
Mary Kay Rendock is a math instructional coach at Bloomfield Public Schools where she’s taught for more than three decades. She’s also a member of the Connecticut Education Association and a former state teacher of the year. She said the current certifications are there for a reason.
"We’re raising the bar and increasing our expectations for the students. It would make sense that we would keep the rigorous expectations we have for potential teachers as they are, if not, even raise them," Rendock said.
A representative with the state Board of Education confirmed this would likely require legislative changes.