By Sam Jack
The state of Kansas is short of teachers. Recent reports put the total shortfall at 1,500, with western Kansas districts particularly hard-pressed.
The tough job market has not caused unfilled vacancies in the Conway Springs school district, however. Conway Springs hired two new teachers this year and did not have “an extreme amount of trouble” in doing so, according to superintendent Clay Murphy.
“I think we’re fortunate, in the sense that we live pretty close to Wichita, so that helps a little bit,” Murphy said. “But I know that in Wichita, they’re short.”
Murphy has heard that music teachers are in particularly high demand.
“There’s just not many of them coming out of college in the next few years,” he said. “It’s an issue. Foreign languages, too, can be tough to fill. Certain ones are harder than others.”
To try and generate an applicant pool, the Garden City school district attended 44 teacher job fairs, in seven different states, according to a KSN report. Conway Springs has also had a presence at job fairs in the past, though it was not necessary this year.
“We were pretty fortunate in what we had to fill, and we got a good sampling of applicants,” Murphy said. “But I will tell you that we used to open jobs up and we’d get 30 applicants. Now we get seven. It’s definitely dropped off a ton.”
The Rural School and Community Trust recently reported that Kansas ranks last in the nation in terms of the average salary paid to rural teachers. Both Murphy and Argonia superintendent Julie McPherron have said that increasing teacher pay – and teacher retention – is among their top priorities if the Kansas Supreme Court ultimately forces the state legislature to increase school funding.