Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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Slowing growth leads to fewer new teachers

Hundreds of positions will stay unfilled until enrollment figures are clearer

Nearly 1,000 new Clark County School District teachers will report for duty Wednesday, less than half the number hired for the prior academic year.

More than 450 classroom teacher positions remain unfilled, until the district has a better idea of what enrollment will look like this fall.

“We are hoping there will be a need for more teachers to be hired at that time, and not a need for staff reductions,” said Martha Tittle, the district’s human resources chief.

Students return to school Aug. 25. The official “count day,” used by the state to determine per-pupil funding, is the third Friday in September. Clark County is the nation’s fifth-largest district, with 309,070 students expected this fall.

That figure represents the district’s smallest percentage of enrollment growth in 25 years -- about 1.5 percent, down from a high of 4.8 percent in 2005. At the same time, a record number of K-12 students left Southern Nevada over the course of the 2007-08 academic year. Enrollment dropped by about 4,200 students between September and May.

Schools are being staffed at 98 percent of the projected need, which amounts to about 1.3 vacancies at each of 347 campuses.

The district also has 192 openings for special education teachers and 92 spots for specialized positions such as school nurses and speech pathologists. But unlike the regular classroom vacancies, many of the special education and specialized positions will continue to be filled as qualified candidates become available.

The student exodus is being attributed in large part to Clark County’s struggling economy. The district announced last month it was putting off plans to ask voters to support a $9.5 billion bond measure, and instead would spend the next two years focusing on renovating and replacing older schools, and completing new construction projects already funded.

Later this week, the district and the Clark County Education Association will co-host orientation sessions for new teachers at Cox Pavilion. The event includes a luncheon, with Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev. scheduled to speak Wednesday and Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev. set for Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., have both recorded video greetings.

Emily Richmond can be reached at 259-8829 or [email protected]

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