SPPS and Osseo schools race to fill hundreds of positions ahead of school year 

School districts race to fill hundreds of positions ahead of school year

School districts race to fill hundreds of positions ahead of school year

In just weeks, students across Minnesota will be back in school. For districts struggling to fill open jobs, the clock is ticking to get their staffing levels boosted in time. 

St. Paul Public School Executive Chief of Human Resources Patricia Pratt-Cook says a number of factors are to blame for the staffing shortage including the pandemic, retirements, career changes and receiving few applicants. 

The school district is under the wire to hire more than 500 positions before the school year kicks off in about a month. So far, the school has filled over 800 positions.

“One of the things that we’ve tried to do is be a little bit more proactive this year in terms of all our recruitment efforts,” said Pratt-Cook. 

It includes hiring bonuses for hard-to-fill positions. New this year, the district offered the first 70 special education teachers $10,000 bonuses which will be paid over the course of two years. 

“We’ve also done bonuses for $4,000. That has made a huge difference in terms of how quickly we’ve been able to get applicants into our funnel,” Pratt-Cook explained.

The district also made its first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) tour and began establishing relationships with HBCUs around the country. It also more aggressively offered earlier contracts than they have in the past to jumpstart their process of filling in positions sooner.

“We just recently got funded to have a partnership with the University of Minnesota. So we’re looking at continually looking for ways for us to grow our own teacher pipeline,” Pratt-Cook added.

In the northwest metro, the Osseo Public School District has about 250 vacancies. School officials say the shortage has put a bind in its before- and after-school programs.

“That’s put a tremendous amount of pressure on families to find alternative care. And we know that care is hard to find, even outside of the school district,” said Sonni Beurskin, the director of student services for the Osseo School District. 

Both St. Paul and Osseo school districts have the most need for support roles like paraprofessionals and teaching assistants.

In addition to competitive pay, current unlicensed staff at Osseo have a pipeline to get their teaching license through the Grow Your Own program.

“We’re excited to also provide it to our staff, so that if they want to get into teaching, they’re also able to get some financial support, and programming into teaching,” said Susan Hang, the recruitment and retention manager for the Osseo School District.

Back in St. Paul, there’s still hope as the number of open positions are actually down about 200 from the previous year. 

“Our goal is we will continue to refine this process every single year, with the expectation that we’ll be closer and closer to being 100 percent filled at the beginning of the year,” Pratt-Cook said. 

St. Paul Public Schools is hosting a hiring fair Friday, Aug. 18 for non-licensed positions. You can sign up here to get a 30-minute job interview at the fair.