Local school districts looking for solutions in the face of widespread teacher shortages

The continued stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many teachers to leave the profession, leading to shortages in several counties.

Rock Hill schools told Channel 9 they are working to recruit teachers locally and from other states, and even offering sign-on bonuses in hopes of attracting teachers to their district.

The district’s exceptional students program is particularly impacted by the vacancies. 9% of the teacher positions in that department need to be filled, and leaders are asking for help from the community.

Brooke Faris has taught students with special needs for 10 years and she said it’s her passion.

“Part of it is the drive that students with disabilities have,” Faris said. “They want to learn, they just learn differently, so they need that extra support and help and that’s just part of why I do what I do.”

Rock Hill schools have 1,480 teacher positions total. They started the school year with 29 vacancies and as of Tuesday, have 20. Seven of those open spots are in the exceptional students program, a department that only has about 75 teachers.

“It’s disheartening cause that’s our future, our future of our community, country, our world,” Faris said. “We need teachers to help them grow, learn, and become well-adjusted citizens.”

The district said it plans to reach out to students within South Carolina and in other states hoping to kindle an interest in teaching.

“We’re also offering a signing bonus for exceptional student teachers for 500 dollars for this year,” said Lindsay Machak with Rock Hill Schools.

Across the state line, Anson County is struggling with a similar situation.

Anson County’s school board met Monday afternoon to discuss the strain the teacher shortages has caused in the district. They need more than 20 teachers and 12 classroom support staff members. School officials said some classrooms don’t even have certified teachers.

Mickey Rorie said he noticed the teacher shortages at Anson County Middle School where his daughter is a student.

“I pray to God they get it situated,” Rorie said.

Rorie is one of many parents who were told several teachers decided not to return this school year because of the stress of teaching during a pandemic. Some of those vacancies were filled by substitutes, but then, several subs quit.

“They couldn’t deal with the stress and burden kids were putting on them,” Rorie said.

Anson County currently has vacancies for teachers in high school and elementary school, but the problem is hardly unique. It’s a statewide issue affecting districts of every size.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools told Channel 9 more than 300 teachers resigned in the first couple of months of the 2021-2022 school year. More than 80 others will be gone by the new year. As of Nov. 2021, the district had 66 teacher vacancies and is experiencing recruitment and retention issues district-wide.

CMS also said more than 1,000 teachers resigned at the end of last school year.

Rorie said he understands why teachers have left the profession and thinks the district will have to pay teachers more money.

“I think they need to give them a pay raise, to be honest with you. Some of the students they have to put up with,” Rorie said. “They actually deserve the money. Some of these students, it starts at home with the respect.”

Anson County is not the only local school district facing difficulty in the workforce.

Channel 9 spoke with two teachers in August who decided to leave their school districts. One teacher, 20-year-veteran Dawne Foster, resigned in April from her school in Lancaster. At that time, South Carolina’s governor had announced masks were no longer required in schools. Foster said with the delta variant’s arrival and with a low chance of a virtual option, she had no choice but to resign from a career she loved.

The second teacher, Rebecca Craig, said she resigned from Union County Public Schools after 23 years after the politics around education made the culture toxic. She said after seeing the way teachers were seen and treated, and seeing UCPS hold in-person graduations against the governor’s order in 2020, she needed to leave.

(WATCH BELOW: Teachers, other school staff in Catawba County to get bonuses)