Sunday, July 22, 2001

An apple and a house for the teacher

Schools turn to home-buying programs and other incentives to recruit and keep staff

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Lori Cargile was among the first teachers in Cincinnati Public Schools to take advantage of a new home ownership program the district offers through a partnership with Firstar Bank.

Cincinnati teacher Lori Cargile shows off the key to her new town house.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        On July 12, the eight-year teaching veteran moved from a one-bedroom apartment in Pleasant Ridge to a new three-bedroom/three-bathroom town home in East Walnut Hills. She received a reduced-rate loan, lower closing costs and free home buyer training and counseling.

        CPS officials are hoping to hear from more people like her in the coming weeks as their district and others across the Tristate increase efforts to recruit teachers like never before.

        “If we're going to have quality teachers, we need to compete with corporate America,” said Ms. Cargile, who teaches math at Shroder Paideia. “This encourages you not only to stay in your job but to live within the district.”

Covington teachers Colleen Curtis (left) and Jennifer and Andrew Maines look after their children in a classroom that will become a day care center.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        Teacher shortages are pressuring school districts across the country. Districts that have long competed with higher-paying businesses must also contend with a shrinking work force as more teachers hired in the baby boom enrollment surge in the 1960s retire. In addition, fewer college students are pursuing education careers.

        Positions in math, science and special education are among the hardest to fill. Districts have gotten creative in their hiring efforts, including:

        • The Covington Board of Education in June approved a staff day care center, which will open this fall at Sixth District Elementary School.

        • CPS's home ownership program offers loans for up to $275,000 at up to a quarter-point below fixed market rates. Forty-eight teachers have scheduled to take the home-buying course. Eight have either bought a home or are about to close on a home.

        CPS is also offering salary bonuses ($2,000) to new hires in special education, math and science.

        • Mason City Schools, a Warren County district of 7,000 students, has expanded a job share program it began last year as a pilot. The job sharing allows two interested teachers to share one teaching position, each working half days. They split a benefits package. This year, job sharing is open to any interested teachers, with approval from the building principal.

        • Ross, Hamilton and Talawanda school districts in Butler County shared a $100,000 state grant last year to start a teacher mentoring program that ensures new teachers have staff support and additional professional development training. Because of the program's success last year, Ross and Talawanda will apply for the grant again or will pay for the program themselves if necessary, said Ross Superintendent David McWilliams.

        • Mount Healthy Schools — hindered by low test scores that rate the 3,800-student district in ""academic emergency'' — raised base teacher pay from $27,000 to $28,080 this year. The base increases to $29,000 next year, said spokeswoman Judy Ashton.

        Recruiting is not an issue, however, at all districts.

        “We have two huge file drawers filled with (applications of) people who want to work here,” said Madeira schools treasurer Barbara Brewer. Madeira, a 1,500-student Hamilton County district with an ""effective'' state academic rating, offers one the highest starting salaries in the Tristate. A teacher with a bachelor's degree and no experience will earn $30,232 in 2001-02.

        But many urban districts must attract teachers to schools where test scores are low and challenges can be great.

        CPS, a district of 42,600 students, has some of the lowest overall proficiency test scores in southwest Ohio. Officials there say salary bonuses and the home-ownership program are necessary to help recruit teachers — 450 because of turnover and 150 new positions to reduce class sizes.

        Offers have been made to more than 220 teachers and that number is expected to climb another 200 more by late August, said Deborah Heater, CPS director of human resources.

        At Covington Independent Schools, 76 teachers resigned following a state audit in June 2000 that criticized the district for poor instruction and management, said spokesman Bill Weathers. Covington had to emergency-certify 31 teachers last year and has already certified 10 this year.

        The day care program is an incentive to recruit and retain teachers, said Superintendent Jack Moreland.

        “For some teachers, they feel like they spend so much at day care that they feel like it's better to stay at home,” said Dennis Maines, who teaches at 6th District Elementary School in Covington with his wife, Jennifer. They will be using the day care for their 8-week-old son, Andrew.

        Mason City Schools, a suburban Warren County district dealing with explosive growth, faces a different problem. The district has added more than 45 new teachers a year to accommodate average growth of about 650 students each of the past three years, said Craig Ullery, human resource director.

        For one Mason High School teacher, the district's support of her personal life made the differ ence in her decision to stay.

        Thanks to the district's job-share program, Laney Bender-Slack of Symmes Township seldom missed a home-cooked lunch last year with her 22-month-old son, Duncan, and daughter, Megan, 5.

        The job sharing allows the British literature teacher to work half days at Mason High and spend the other half with her children, preventing her from having to quit her job.

        “It was my most successful year ever as a teacher and as a mom,” she said. “I was finally able to balance things, and I wasn't so stressed all the time.

        The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, said incentives such as signing bonuses are short-term fixes.

        To prevent a revolving door of teachers coming just for the bonus and then leaving, the monetary rewards must be accompanied by professional development opportunities and decision-making power, said Melinda Anderson, NEA spokeswoman.

        The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, the district's teachers union, is negotiating for more incentives, president Sue Taylor said.

        Science teacher Tracy Houston, one of the first teachers to accept CPS's new $2,000 signing bonus, said that wasn't what attracted her.

        Rather, she said, it was the district's philosophy of having decision-making at the school building level, right down to budgeting. This year, she's taking a job at Rockdale Elementary, where she will earn $37,000.

        Pay was the main reason Ms. Houston moved from the Fort Thomas schools in Kentucky to Forest Hills schools in Ohio two years ago. At the time, her pay jumped from $24,000 to $33,000.

        “I loved Highlands (High School) and would've liked to have stayed,” Ms. Houston said. “But with a $9,000 salary difference, everything's a lot tighter.”

Certified teachers in short supply

Toddler recovers from gunshot wound
Lynch's comment on looted guns, buyback denied
Fest-goers find fun
Flooding victims begin to take stock
Mobile-home residents feel fortunate to be alive
Shop owner decides to forge on
Flooding makes impact at all income levels
- An apple and a house for the teacher
Area D.C. interns say work OK amid Levy hunt
Cancer worker reaches needy
This week's diversity events
PULFER: A lifetime of bravery in 3 years
Robber forgot commandment
Voting catch: Many don't know how
Car break-ins strike Kenton
Inspector's out to keep green acres
Kentucky Digest
Local Digest
Mason may add six firefighters
Newport pushes to sell water works
Tristate's Priciest Homes
At KFC's test kitchen, proof is in the market
Dad takes on Oxy sellers
Delaware County keeps on zooming
Golf course plan hits rough