Portland metro area school administrators and PSU College of Education discuss ways of addressing potential teacher shortage
Author: Jillian Daley
Posted: October 8, 2019
Portland metro area school district administrators say solutions such as university partnerships, in-house teacher prep programs and national searches could solve a potential statewide teacher shortage that could result from the Student Success Act.
The Oregon Legislature passed the Student Success Act earlier this year, which boosts spending on schools, with an additional $1 billion disbursing to school districts in fall 2020. Legislators earmarked the funds for areas such as hiring teachers and fostering culturally responsive teaching.
The funding benefits schools, but it could intensify the effects of a teacher shortage, according to Portland metro area school district officials, because the legislation allocates funds for all 197 school districts in the state to hire teachers. The Oregon Department of Education has already documented a teacher shortage across the nation and in rural Oregon areas, especially in subject areas such as math, English and science at the secondary level.
As Oregon's leading producer of teachers, PSU's College of Education (COE) is discussing solutions to the potential shortage with administrators from several local school districts. During interviews with the COE communications team, school administrators presented solutions such as continuing to partner with universities including PSU on teacher prep programs, holding national or statewide searches and launching in-house teacher pathway programs.
“It’s important to work with schools to find solutions to a potential teacher shortage,” COE Dean Marvin Lynn said. “The Student Success Act is an important illustration that the Oregon Legislature recognizes the need for increased resources for P-12 schools. The COE is committed to collaborating with our school partners to provide a high-quality diverse teacher workforce.”
The Student Success Act established a fund for early learning and K-12 education with a new business tax to revive programs and positions that were eliminated to fund the Public Employees Retirement System, according to the Oregon School Boards Association. 
With every school district in the state receiving funds for more teachers, administrators say it may become challenging to hire qualified teacher candidates. Multnomah Education Service District Superintendent Sam Breyer said it’s “a good challenge to have,” although “it will take a concerted effort, partnerships and creative thinking to ensure we have enough highly skilled teachers to serve our students.”
School administrators say they are pleased to have the funds to hire more teachers, and hiring more teachers of color is a priority for them so that their educator demographics better reflect their student body. 
Gresham-Barlow School District Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources James Hiu said his district, which has 612 teachers, plans to post jobs on statewide and national sites such as the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators and American Association of School Administrators. Twelve percent of teachers identify as minorities, and the district plans to add up to4 percent more teachers of color.

“We need people in our profession who are going to lift kids up and support kids,” Hiu said.

Beaverton School District Chief Human Resource Officer Sue Robertson said recruitment for her district, which has 2,368 teachers, will include maintaining partnerships with colleges and universities. That includes Portland Teachers Program, a partnership with PSU that involves recruiting teachers of color; and Bilingual Teacher Pathways, a teacher prep program to fill the shortage of elementary school bilingual teachers in the Portland area.

“We are always seeking a diverse group of quality educators,” Robertson said.

Parkrose School District Superintendent Michael Lopes-Serrao said his district, which has 170 teachers, hopes to hire teachers to replace positions that were cut in areas including physical education, music and library studies.

The district wants to create a program for students to teach at their home school district after college. Students of color comprise 70 percent of the student body, and this program could boost staff diversity to 50 percent teachers of color. 

“We believe this is our best opportunity to recruit and retain staff of color,” Lopes-Serrao said.

Reynolds School District Executive Director of Human Capital Management Jennifer Ellis said her district is adding teachers through a teacher pathway program that recruits educational assistants. The program increases teaching diversity because educational assistants are diverse, with 28 of 136 educational assistants in the district last year identifying as people of color.
The district, which has 532 teachers, has been striving to increase the number of teachers of color beyond the 39 current educators.

The district has other teacher pathways options as well. Along with districts such as Gresham-Barlow and Beaverton, Reynolds partners with PSU to recruit bilingual employees with a bachelor’s degree who want a special education license to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students with or without disabilities.

“Investing in students and classified staff that live in the area pays off in the long-term,” Ellis said.

Photos from top to bottom: COE Dean Marvin Lynn, MESD Superintendent Sam Breyer, Gresham-Barlow Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources James Hiu, Beaverton Chief Human Resource Officer Sue Robertson, Parkrose Superintendent Michael Lopes-Serrao, Reynolds Executive Director of Human Capital Management Jennifer Ellis. Photos courtesy of local school districts and PSU records