Las Vegas Sun

July 28, 2014

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New teachers welcomed; 300 vacancies remain

Jane Gaelen left the Clark County School District's New Teacher Welcome Center with more loot than she could carry alone.

"Big books, stamps, posters, notebooks, decorations -- you name it," said Gaelen, who was assisted out to her car by one of the welcome center's greeters who toted a second box of donated supplies. "I got a lot of great stuff."

Gaelen, who reports for work next Monday to teach second grade at Lincoln-Edison Elementary School, is one of more than 1,800 new teachers hired by the district for the 2005-06 academic year. Nearly 300 vacancies still remain however, predominantly in special education at the secondary school level.

"We're still interviewing, still working and we won't stop," said George Ann Rice, associate superintendent of human resources for the district.

Offers were made to 76 elementary school teachers and 20 high school teachers Monday, Rice said. If those candidates accept the offers, the district will have 290 vacancies left to fill in 20 days.

Rice said that's about par for the district for most years, with the exception of 2003 when a legislative logjam resulted in a hiring freeze. In August of that year the district was short 800 teachers when the freeze was lifted and hiring resumed.

Some new teachers will start on the job before their FBI background checks have been completed, Rice said. That, too, is par for the course, Rice said.

"As soon as we identify someone we send their FBI cards but the turnaround time can be a couple of months," Rice said.

However candidates' employment records are checked along with references, Rice said.

While more than two dozen School District employees have been arrested on sex-related offenses in that last three years, in each instance the individual's FBI background check had come back clean.

In addition to looking for more new teachers the district is busy assisting the ones that have already been hired.

At the welcome center Monday, new teachers found more than just classroom supplies: There were three binders full of housing listings, including other educators looking for roommates as well available apartments and homes. For several years Camden Properties has offered special rates for new teachers, setting aside several buildings for them.

"It's a great way for them to get to know each other and create their own support network right off the bat," said Debbie Tomasetti, coordinator of new teacher induction for the district.

For Tessa Winger, who will be a first-year teacher at Molasky Middle School, the welcome center was a chance to get to know more about the district that hired her sight-unseen.

"I did my application (online) in May and got a call a month later for an interview," said Winger, 23. "Two days after that they offered me a job."

At the welcome center she loaded up on school maps, enrollment information from the teachers' union and credit union and picked up a schedule of activities for the next two weeks.

Winger said she wasn't surprised that the district would be opening 11 new schools when classes begin Aug. 29. In fact, given Clark County's reputation for growth in surrounding states, Winger was " surprised they're not opening more of them," she said.

While Winger has her job lined up, her husband of nine months does not. Adam Winger accompanied his wife to the welcome center to find out more about a job bank maintained by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce that offers assistance to spouses of district employees. He also stopped by the district's main office to find out if there are any school library openings.

"If we could both be working for the district, that would be great," said Adam Winger, who plans to pursue a master's degree in library science.

Activities for new teachers will pick up next week, with "get to know your community" day, orientation and the annual welcome luncheon at the Cox Pavilion. In past years guest speakers at the luncheon have included Gov. Kenny Guinn, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Jon Ensign, R-Nev.

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