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NASD pushes teacher recruitment

NATCHEZ — Natchez-Adams School District officials are hoping to create incentive packages to help recruit teachers to its schools.

In December, the NASD Board of Trustees approved using federal funds from its budget to offer a certified incentive package of $3,500 as leverage for the recruitment of teachers for the remainder of this school year.

The package included a $2,500 signing bonus — half received at contract signing and the other at the completion of the semester — as well as a Macbook computer valued at $1,000.

Superintendent Frederick Hill said after further legal review, however, the district wasn’t able to offer signing bonuses to recruit teachers.

“We have since found out we can’t offer those incentives as bonuses, but there are other possibilities we can look at, such as differentiated pay scales and other things to recruit teachers,” Hill said. “We haven’t figured out exactly what that will look like yet, but we’re going to begin to look at that as soon as we get back into the office (Monday).”

Efforts to recruit, employ and retain highly qualified teachers and other non-certified staff was something the board asked Hill to begin doing when he took over in 2012.

District officials have been conducting a variety of recruiting efforts since then, including monthly advertisement of its vacancies with the Mississippi Department of Education to contacting and visiting colleges and universities across the state.

Hill said the need to recruit new, highly qualified teachers to the area becomes more important each year.

“We have quite a few teachers that can retire at any time, so we need to be building up the application pool and have those folks ready,” Hill said. “With Natchez being deemed a critical shortage area for teachers, there might be other things we can offer to get those people here in the district.

“We just have to get creative and do whatever we can.”

Board President Wayne Barnett said recruiting new teachers to the area becomes more difficult when the district continues to receive “F” ratings by the state.

Two schools in the district — Morgantown Middle School and Natchez High School — received an “F” rating for the second consecutive year and another “F” rating in September means the state board of education will take over the school.

A state takeover could consist of all school employees being fired and the state hiring replacements.

“Would you take a job in Natchez, Mississippi, if you thought you would be assigned to Morgantown and in September you could be fired and not hired back?” Barnett said.  “We need to get the message out to current and prospective teachers that we’re going to treat people fair, and if teachers do their job, they don’t have anything to worry about.

“It’s hard to get the message across that our district has great teachers and students when all you hear is that Natchez is failing.”

Barnett said using non-local funds to help recruit teachers to the district would be a worthwhile investment in the long run.

“I think it’s money well spent,” Barnett said. “Anything we can do to get good teachers to come to Natchez, I’m for it.”