School districts seek instructors for English learners, special needs students

Signal file photo College of the Canyons teacher in training, Logan Martell, right, works with fifth-grade students as they program their robots to play music on the xylophone at Live Oak Elementary School in Castaic last year. School leaders have identified a need for more educators in the Santa Clarita Valley who have language and special needs training. Dan Watson/The Signal

School leaders have identified a need for more educators in the Santa Clarita Valley who have language and special needs training — and those hard-to-find teachers are needed for the upcoming school year, officials said this week.

The William S. Hart Union High and Sulphur Springs school districts were the most recent districts to state their need for teachers who are certified to instruct English learners and special education, during separate meetings of their respective governing boards on Wednesday night.

More than 6,000 students are considered English learners in the SCV, and special education is often a leading reason why parents opt to send their child with special needs to an elementary school in Saugus, Castaic, Newhall or Sulphur Springs as opposed to one in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Based on district needs and enrollment projections, Sulphur Springs requested 11 permits authorizing instruction for special education, according to the resolutions adopted by the districts. Hart district officials will need 20 permits authorizing instruction to English learners and another five for special education — and they aren’t the only districts still seeking staff for next year.

The Saugus Union School District previously announced a declaration of need in April. The Newhall School District did the same in May.

“Filling any positions with emergency permits or internships is a last resort,” the Newhall School District agenda states, but with the looming shortage of special education teachers across the state, districts across the SCV may need to employ special education teachers who are interns.

Officials in multiple districts have concurred that a lack of government funding is to blame since the number of students with disabilities has increased along with healthcare costs, but the funding to educate them has not.

“Special education is a very hard position to fill for a number of reasons,” board President Ken Chase said. “This year, for our district, we have a lot of retirements that have affected us.”

In fact, the declared need comes in the wake of 21 teacher retirements in Sulphur Springs. Once again, the issue isn’t isolated to the east side elementary school district, as Newhall also recently celebrated retirements.

Chase said districts see an outflow in teachers every year, which is why he views the declaration as a procedural “just-in-case.”

“You’ll often find this routine stuff towards the end of the fiscal year,” he said. “Although, we have been very successful in our recruiting and we are optimistic we’ll find staff, this will allow us a little bit of a buffer if we are having problems finding a certified person.”

When a district is unable to find a teacher with exactly the appropriate credentials, Hart officials said, then districts are required to submit a declaration of need to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

The declaration will state the district has been unable to find an acceptable, qualified employee with the exact credentials needed for a certain position, but that the district would like to work with the person who has the emergency authorization.

Chase and other district officials hope the permits act as a bridge until their staff and interns can become certified, or until they hire somebody from out of state.

“By submitting this,” Chase said, “we’ll have room to fill the position temporarily or with almost-certified personnel.”

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