San Jose’s largest school district scrambles for teachers
Anne Darling Elementary is part of the San Jose Unified School District. File photo.

    San Jose’s largest school district is projecting a need for hundreds of teachers starting next fall, but hurdles remain amid an ongoing shortage.

    San Jose Unified School District estimates it needs to hire 202 teachers for the 2023-24 school year, according to the California Department of Education. Education officials said districts are looking for teachers, but face an uphill battle as students and instructors alike leave the Bay Area.

    “There’s some of the same concerns: cost of living, opportunities within other districts surrounding us, the reduction of people actually entering education across the board,” J. Dominic Bejarano, SJUSD assistant superintendent of administrative services, said at Thursday’s board meeting. “We are seeing some teachers leave the area… and just completely moving out of California.”

    Teacher hiring data from the state’s education department is based on each district’s rough estimates of how many vacancies are projected after departures, which include resignations and retirements. The data covers teaching and specialist positions, and does not include counseling, administrative, health and library positions.

    The COVID-19 pandemic affected a slew of education roles, with districts still struggling to hire bus drivers and substitute teachers. SJUSD had to rely on administrators and counselors to fill vacant substitute teaching roles. San Jose Unified School District serves more than 26,000 students across more than 40 campuses.

    SJSUD Superintendent Nancy Albarrán said districts in the area are competing with each other to attract teachers, and it often comes down to compensation. Districts are working to woo potential educators through teacher housing projects as more teachers are priced out of the Bay Area.

    “There are 31 districts in the county, and 19 in the city of San Jose. We have just an added layer of complexity to our staffing,” Albarrán said. “Palo Alto (Unified) can pay significantly more than San Jose Unified can.”

    Overall, state data reveals Santa Clara County needs an estimated 1,221 teachers for the 2023-24 school year. The state needs more than 24,790 new educators.

    Tom Huynh, East Side Union High School District associate superintendent of human resources, said school districts in general have to deal with a range of factors in hiring each year. New specialized programs can mean more educators are needed to fill the gaps, he added, but unexpected enrollment drops can also require less staff on hand. The district enrolls more than 24,000 students.

    East Side Union High School District projected it would need 125 hires for 2022-23, but only hired 64 new teachers and remained fully staffed at the beginning of the school year. The district projects it will need an additional 78 teachers in 2023-24, according to state data. While the district isn’t feeling the effects of the teacher shortage, Huynh said cost of living is a defining factor for teacher retention.

    “People love working in Silicon Valley, they just don’t love having to pay for living in Silicon Valley,” Huynh told San José Spotlight. “It’s a catch-22.”

    SJUSD Finance Director Arthur Cuffy said the hiring estimates can also differ by student populations. Some schools in the district may need more staff to support English language learners, foster youth and low-income students. He said the district is also keeping an eye on student-teacher ratios to ensure classes are not oversized, and teachers feel supported.

    “We know having the best and the brightest in a system that has the conditions for them to do optimal work is key,” he said.

    Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.

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