Principals upbeat as recruits fill teacher vacancies
Several high-school principals are reporting that they are ready for the start of the new academic year come next Monday, replacing nearly all the teachers who have resigned from their respective institutions.
Some administrators have, over summer, been grappling with the flight of teachers from the classroom, including to migration, with many schools scurrying to find replacements or employing alternative methods to fill the gap.
Education Minister Fayval Williams, during a back-to-school press conference on Thursday, disclosed that the number of teachers who have resigned since July has moved up from 167 to 248.
However, she reported that many of those posts have been filled.
The minister said that in Region Two, which accounts for Portland, St Thomas, and St Mary, 80 per cent of the vacancies were filled, while Region Four, which covers St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland, has replaced 75 per cent of the teachers who have resigned.
Principals from four parishes who spoke with The Gleaner on Thursday expressed optimism, noting that they were going through applications and conducting interviews.
They also indicated that their classrooms are ready to accommodate the students.
Principal at Bellefield High in Manchester, Paul Hall, puts his school’s readiness at 90 per cent for maintenance, grants, and furniture.
Textbook supply is still a source of concern.
Bellefield lost four teachers to migration but all have been replaced. He noted also that the school had secured replacements for five of six teachers who are on vacation leave.
However, he said the school is having a challenge finding a short-term replacement for the sixth, a mechanical engineer teacher.
Acting principal at Penwood High, Omar Largie, expressed similar sentiments on readiness.
He said the school lost five teachers to resignation. All but one one, a music teacher, are yet to be replaced.
However, he does not foresee any challenges with the management of the curriculum when school resumes.
“We are all excited for school to reopen,” he said.
“The schools are finding qualified teachers to replace those who have resigned and that is how it should work, because we have teachers’ colleges in Jamaica,” she said, adding that 964 teachers have graduated from training colleges.
In St Catherine, Waterford High principal Constace Curriah said her school was also gearing up to welcome the students.
She is anticipating the traditional bumps with the resumption of classes but indicated that she is fully prepared.
Curriah said she would welcome additional classrooms and new equipment but understands that the pandemic has constrained the ministry’s expenditure.
Waterford lost five teachers but has replaced two. However, she said two of the teachers were additional ones hired to assist during the pandemic and to help with 12th-graders, but she said that interviews were still being conducted.
In the meantime, Curriah said she is restructuring the curriculum and has downsized the number of classes to lessen the impact until the vacancies are filled.
Over in St Thomas, Seaforth High principal Calbert Thomas said the school plant is up and ready. Additionally, he said two of the three teachers who had resigned had been replaced.
Williams stated that the education ministry will be launching an online platform to assist job-hunting teachers to submit their résumés to schools.
“We are well aware that we will not have perfection for the reopening of schools. Looking back over the many years in September, we never had perfection,” said Williams.