Teaching staffing nearly complete

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 3, 2001

[08/03/01] If finding teachers is a problem statewide, it’s not in Vicksburg, Superintendent Donald Oakes said.

With classes to start in 10 days, Oakes said well-qualified newcomers have been attracted to the Vicksburg Warren School District to replace retirees and departing teachers. Fewer than five teaching vacancies remain, he said.

About 575 teachers staff the district’s 12 schools serving 9,000 students.

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“That’s about where we always are, between 550 and 600,” Oakes said.

Oakes said additional teachers will be hired during the school year as more students are added to the rolls.

Some of the new instructors will have emergency certificates which are temporary licenses granted by the state to teachers who have college degrees but have not been certified to teach specific courses.

“We won’t have many of those at all,” Oakes said.

The district won’t have any new physics teachers, the kind of educator that Oakes said is hardest to find. Only one certified physics teacher graduated from Mississippi’s eight public universities this spring, he said.

“If you have a degree in physics, what are you going to do? You’re probably going to be an engineer or work somewhere else where you’re going to make a lot of money,” Oakes said. “You’re not going to be a teacher.”

Michael Brantley, physics teacher at Vicksburg High School since the 1970s, said he’s noticed the shortage of newcomers in his field.

“People don’t want to do all it takes to be certified in physics,” Brantley said. “For some reason and I have no idea why people think physics is hard.”

Both Vicksburg and Warren Central high schools have certified physics teachers, and each offers an advanced placement course in the subject.

“There are a lot of districts in Mississippi where that’s not the case, where you have someone certified in something else teaching physics,” Brantley said. “We’re very fortunate.”

Statewide, a shortage of teachers was cited as one of the reasons for a July special session on teacher pay. In that session, lawmakers committed to raise teacher pay an average of $9,500 per teacher over the next five years.

While the plan for raises had been approved during the 2000 regular session, it was limited by a provision that said no raises would be awarded in any year if state income did not rise by 5 percent. That limitation was removed in the special session.