Thursday, September 13, 2001

DOE looks to
for teachers

The hope is that the recruits
will teach special education
on Oahu's Leeward side

By Crystal Kua

The state Department of Education wants to expand the number of teachers contracted from a mainland recruiting firm to help fill much-needed special-education teacher vacancies and comply with a federal mandate covering services to special-needs children.

State schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu said his hope is that 138 teachers and additional hires will stay in Hawaii and the department when their contracts with Columbus Educational Services of Pennsylvania end.

"This is how you solve Hawaii's problem over the long haul," LeMahieu said.

LeMahieu also provided a status report yesterday on the state's efforts to recruit teachers to fill all vacancies.

A "deluge of interest" in all vacant teaching positions in Hawaii's public schools is increasing the pool of teacher applicants, he said.

"We may have, by virtue of calling this to the public's attention a week and a half ago, sort of broken something of a logjam," LeMahieu said.

At a Sept. 4 news conference with U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, LeMahieu projected the need for 437 more teachers to fill vacancies in the schools, with 129 of those positions pegged for special education.

LeMahieu said the number of vacancies is now 389, with 133 for special education. That is after hiring 74 people (applicants in the pipeline before Sept. 4) and revising the teacher vacancy total to 463 positions.

A number of the special-education vacancies are in hard-to-fill locations such as the neighbor islands.

LeMahieu said the increased number of special-education positions is likely due to adjustments made after the completion of the official enrollment count, which determines teacher allocations.

LeMahieu said he has talked to the president of the Columbus firm to recruit special-education teachers in hard-to-fill places on Oahu such as the Leeward Coast. The focus for Columbus had previously been for special-education vacancies on the neighbor islands.

LeMahieu said he would also like these teachers to transition into the Department of Education when their Columbus contract ends.

Hawaii State Teachers Association Executive Director Joan Husted said the union would prefer that the department use DOE teachers and not contracted teachers.

But she said she knows that the department is scrambling to recruit a certain number of certified special-education teachers to meet benchmarks in the Felix consent decree and avoid takeover by a federal receiver.

If Columbus teachers, who are certified as special-education teachers, would like to stay on in the DOE once their private contract ends, the union would support that, Husted said.

Last week, Gov. Ben Cayetano criticized LeMahieu for not making it clear during the Sept. 4 news conference that the number of special-education teacher vacancies had gone down from last year.

LeMahieu said that since making the public plea for more teachers, the department has received 2,212 responses for information. As a result the department has mailed out 507 information packets.

The department has received 302 applications since Sept. 4, with 31 of those applicants being fully trained teachers.

Those 31 applications will be forwarded to the districts for interviews.

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