Garfield County school districts climb over hiring hump as new school year begins next week
Roaring Fork District schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt are heading into the new school year more fully staffed than in recent years.
While part of that has to do with an increase in wages for teachers and other district staff resulting from a new mill levy override approved by voters last fall, hiring efforts have also been bolstered by growing new teachers locally and from within the organization, RFSD Chief of Human Resources Angie Davlyn said.
“As the valley becomes increasingly more expensive, we are really turning our attention to strengthening and developing new pathways to either grow our own teachers or to have stronger pipelines for people who live here to join the district in different capacities,” Davlyn said.
That’s especially important as it becomes increasingly difficult for the district to hire teachers and staff from outside the region, she said.
“You just can’t move here from a different state and easily find housing on a support staff salary, or even on a teacher salary,” Davlyn said. “Even with the increases from the mill levy, it’s just incredibly difficult.”
Overall, though, she said that as the new school year is set to begin for students on Aug. 17, the district is over the hump in terms of its staffing levels at schools in the three communities.
“I feel like we’re moving out of staffing crisis mode and into what feels like a much more regular space,” Davlyn said.
The district entered the new school year needing to fill about 70 teaching positions, as well as numerous support staff positions, said Begonia Platt, human resources generalist and recruiter for the district.
Of those, 55 were new hires, 10 were rehires among former teachers and 12 were transfers from other positions within the district.
“There’s a healthy mix,” Platt said of the influx of new teachers. “We have some people who came from the Front Range, some from Fort Collins and Greeley where colleges are located, and some people from out of state. We also have a few people that came with visas.”
The district still had nine teaching positions to be filled as of the end of last week, which were about evenly split between the three communities, Davlyn said.
Meanwhile, Garfield School District Re-2, serving Rifle, Silt and New Castle, is heading into the first day of school on Aug. 15 having filled an additional 165 positions, district Communications Director Theresa Hamilton said.
Of those, 65 are certified teachers, with the rest being a conglomeration of administration, paraprofessionals and other support staff.
Eight more instructors are still needed, Hamilton said.
“The salary schedule improvements definitely helped,” she said of recent wage adjustments in the west Garfield County district. “We definitely improved our marketing efforts in terms of where we were advertising positions.”
Read more about Garfield Re-2’s hiring efforts in this week’s Rifle Citizen Telegram.
For the Roaring Fork Schools, one of the biggest challenges continues to be filling its numerous support staff positions, from health aides, family liaisons and cooks to custodians and bus drivers.
“We’re always looking for custodians, and always, always, always looking for bus drivers,” Davlyn said.
Bus drivers start at $23 an hour, “and you can work as much or as little as you want, with any kind of crazy schedule,” she said.
The district is also still looking for paraprofessionals and early childhood educators.
“But even our support staff outlook is stronger than it has been before,” she said.
The district also implemented new incentives last year to attract new substitute teachers, or “guest teachers,” who fill in when a regular district teacher is out.
“If we don’t increase our pool of guest teachers, that means we continue to have teachers use their planning periods to fill in for other classroom teachers, and it’s going to rapidly lead to burnout,” Davlyn said.
The state has also recently made it easier for guest teachers to become certified as regular classroom teachers or counselors, and some of the Roaring Fork District’s substitutes have taken advantage of that opportunity, she said.
“We have seen a couple of guest teachers transition to become teachers this year,” Davlyn said. “So that’s not necessarily someone with a teaching background, but someone who is interested enough in education to take advantage of that on ramp.”
One-time state grants of up to $10,000 are also now available to assist with that, Platt said.
“That can go toward their studies to obtain a degree, that later will help them obtain their license,” she said. “So, definitely, the state is helping us with some funds to assist if someone wants to become a counselor or a teacher.”
Platt said the newer teachers who are coming into the profession are a mix of traditional college graduates and those coming into the profession later in life.
After the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education hired a new superintendent, Jesús Rodríguez, earlier this year, who in turn hired Stacey Park as chief academic officer, the district office is also almost fully staffed. One exception is a grants position for the Family Resource Center that remains open, Davlyn said.
Western Garfield County reporter Ray Erku contributed to this report.
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