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CMSD to begin school year five teachers short


India Yarborough



Columbus Municipal School District will enter its new school year with five unfilled faculty positions, according to district personnel director Gregory Hunley. 


There are two vacant positions at Columbus High School, two at Fairview Elementary School and one at Cook Elementary, though Hunley noted the recruiting process is ongoing. 


Hunley said central office is working with the schools' principals to recruit and recommend teachers to the CMSD board of trustees for approval, and, he added, the district hopes to hire the necessary teachers by September. 


The five new faculty members will join a list of 73 teachers CMSD has hired since May, including 22 teachers and assistant teachers the district's school board voted to hire at its most recent meeting Friday. 


According to Hunley, this year's approved hires are either former CMSD teachers moving to new positions within the district or are new faculty filling spots left open by over 50 teacher resignations and eight releases from contracts this summer. 


Though CMSD does not yet have all teachers in place, Hunley said the district is starting the school year stronger than in years past. 


"I can only really speak going back to the 2015-2016 school year, but as far as I can recall, we are in a better position," Hunley said. 


He said about 15 teaching positions were unfilled at the start of the 2015-16 school year and roughly eight positions were open going into last school year. 


Hunley said the district's turnover rate since 2015 for all faculty and staff positions averages around 15 percent, which, according to superintendent Philip Hickman, is in the hands of individual schools. 


"That stuff happens at the building level," Hickman said. "And I think our principals are deliberate about retaining those teachers that are excellent and supporting those teachers that are struggling." 


Tim Wilcox, principal at Cook Elementary, said Tuesday he found a teacher to fill the school's last open position, but the potential faculty member has not yet been approved by the school board. 


Hunley expects the board to approve the hire during its next regular meeting Aug. 14. 


Despite the setback, Wilcox stresses the importance of having a complete team. 


"It means that (our students) are going to walk in with teachers who are experienced, who have more tools in their tool belt for meeting students' individual needs," he said. 


Wilcox, who has served as Cook's principal for five years, uses several methods to recruit teachers. In collaboration with the district's personnel department, Wilcox reaches out to state universities for applicants, spreads the word of open positions through social media and works with neighboring school districts to find qualified individuals. Wilcox then sends recommendations to central office, which reviews applications and presents potential hires to the school board for approval. 


"I've been fortunate at Cook to get some very talented and experienced teachers, and we're looking forward to a great year," Wilcox said. 


Students begin classes Monday.




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