November is a time of thanksgiving and a time when districts are looking forward to the holidays. It is a time, now, when districts are anticipating the outcomes of their Board elections and the outcomes of voter support for bonds and mil levies. This newest “fall tradition” is a new experience for us and adds even more anticipation into our holidays. As I have talked to many district administrators this fall, there seems to be questions about several realities.
NMSU SOAR just released the 2019 New Mexico Educator Vacancy Report (see it on our website). This work has been our “weather-vane” for staffing trends and the trends for teacher educator enrollment and completion. This year’s results show a 13% decrease in total vacancies over last year. This year, total vacancies totaled 1,054. Of these there were still 644 teacher vacancies statewide. By region, the teacher vacancies were as follows: Central Region – 309; Northeast Region – 27; Northwest Region – 96; Southeast – 147; Southwest – 65.
When we review the “heatmap” of identified openings we find that the most openings are for Elementary Teachers (173), Special Education Teachers (151), High School Teachers (122), and Middle School Teachers (112). When we view the need by subject area the results are not dissimilar from last year with the following openings specific to subject: Math (62); ELA (46); Science (46); Music (34); Social Studies (25); General Education (17); Health/PE (17); Visual and Performing Arts (13); Technology/Media (12); Multiple Subjects (10); Spanish (6); FACS (6).
As we look forward to teacher availability, I am concerned with the continuing downtrend of both enrollment admissions and completions from our colleges of education in total (including Alternative and Traditional). Admits have decreased 4% over last year (-47) and, significantly, completers have decreased 12% (-97) from last year. Over the last 10 years, the number of completers has decreased 43%. This trend is likely to continue and signals an ongoing crisis for New Mexico Public Schools. We urge you to become active in assisting us to find solutions. Our children deserve nothing less.
Additionally, we continue to see high turnover of our superintendents throughout New Mexico. So far, in this last turnover cycle, we have seen the turnover of 32/89 superintendents. That is a turnover rate of 35.9%. This trend, if unchecked, is sure to cause a significant impediment to maintain consistency of planning, growth, and stability for New Mexico schools. The NMSSA continues to work to support new superintendents through an intentionally designed mentoring process. This process brings seasoned, veteran superintendents as mentors. We seek to build the professional relationships and networks of support to assure that the superintendents in New Mexico are successful.
Recruitment and retention of our teacher corps and our administrative corps must continue to be a top priority for us. We need to assure that we rebuild the foundation of quality instructional and leadership personnel. When placed in terms that the Courts have ordered in Yazzie/Martinez, the constitutional imperative is clear.