MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Students in Florence School District One will be in class a week from Thursday, but the district still had 11 certified teaching positions to fill as of Wednesday.
Just 13 applicants per open position
While one FSD1 position had 33 applicants, an English teacher at West Florence High School that is no longer posted, three of the open slots have just one or two applicants according to the district's assistant superintendent for human resources.
Dr. Matrell Sturkey points out positions posted online, it may not be empty yet.
"A position is posted when a certified employee wishes to be released from their teaching contract and a replacement is needed to allow the release," Sturkey said by email. She also said positions are posted when an employee resigns.
The positions with the fewest applicants include two for an art teacher at Dewey L. Carter Elementary School, two for a social studies teacher at Southside Middle School and one for a business education teacher at the Florence Career Center that is no longer posted.
Of the 11 jobs available Wednesday, the average number of applicants was 13.
Different district, more applicants
That average is significantly higher for positions within Horry County Schools, 22.6 per open position as of Wednesday.
Ten open jobs at HCS include just two with single digit applicants, four for a JRTOC instructor at Socastee High School and three for a special education teacher at Aynor High School.
As many as 57 people applied for one position, a second-grade teacher at Carolina Forest Elementary School, and it is no longer posted.
A spokeswoman for the district says the concern isn't with the number of overall applicants, but rather the number of qualified applicants.
She says the information provided indicates the number of applications received.
"This number does not indicate that the applicants were vetted to be qualified for the position," Teal Britton said by email.
Dr. Sturkey made the same point.
"The number of applicants only reflects the number of persons who applied for or were interested in the position, not qualified for the position," she said.
Britton also made the point the number of applicants can vary based on how long a job is posted.
The Aynor High position with just three applicants was posted August 7, but the JROTC job was posted back on June 26.
The "troubling trend"
For HCS Board Chairman Joe Defeo, it's a trend of fewer and fewer applicants each year that troubles him.
"In the past, you would get enough applicants for every job you posted," Defeo said. He said that isn't the case anymore, especially for special needs, math and science jobs.
The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement backs up the claim of a smaller pool of applicants year after year in South Carolina. A report released in January says 1,898 students completed the SC teacher education program during the 2015-16 academic year, down from 2,447 in 2012-13. One in seven teachers hired in South Carolina last year, came from out of state.
Defeo said the board has asked the district's human resources department to devise a plan to incentivize applicants to hard-to-fill positions. It would be a five-year bonus program, and Defeo hopes it's in place within the next year.