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Non-certified teachers help fill shortage in Hazelton

Six non-certified teachers hired to help fill 50 full-time equivalent slots in Hazelton and Kitwanga

Coast Mountains School District officials are having to rely on non-certified teachers for hard-to-fill positions at Hazelton and Kitwanga schools this year.

There are six non-certified teachers now hired under letters of permission to help fill approximately 50 full-time equivalent slots in Hazelton and Kitwanga says Cam MacKay, the school district’s official in charge of human resources.

“They are all hard to fill which is why we have to go to non-certified,” said MacKay of teaching positions which came open at the end of the last school year.

The school district has also worked hard to staff up its substitute teaching pool to fill either short-term or long-term absences and leaves.

The substitute “pool has approximately 15 but not all are available to work all the time. This includes three full-time contract [substitutes]. One does not start until November 1,” said MacKay.

As of last week, the district had two postings open in Hazelton — one a Grade 2 position for a teacher on leave whose return date is unknown, and a half-time family studies teacher for this semester only at Hazelton Secondary.

Unexpected departures of teachers over the summer who have taken jobs elsewhere or who have had spouses transferred have caused the district to scramble throughout its schools, said MacKay.

“Late notice really hamstrings any district, particularly northern communities,” said MacKay in explaining the need to hire non-certified people under what are called letters of permission.

Coast Mountains employs more than 300 people to fill 290 full-time equivalent teaching positions and had nearly 90 postings to deal with this year. In all, the district has hired 15 new teachers so far this year.

Exact enrolment numbers won’t be gathered until the end of the month and then reported to the Education ministry, but the Grade 7 to 9 Skeena Middle School in Terrace is the largest in the district with 575 students.

School districts across B.C. were placed under increased pressure to hire teachers when teachers won a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in late 2016 restoring class sizes and composition to levels that existed in 2002 before the B.C. Liberal government of the day stripped them from collective agreements.

The Province then pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the system, setting off a competition among those districts to recruit and retain teachers, a situation that put rural and northern districts at a disadvantage when compared to districts in more populated areas.

The Province did, however, make money available to smaller districts to provide hiring incentives.