Eight hundred new teachers will begin working in Prince William County this year, about 100 more than were hired last year, according to projections by the school system.
Part of the increase is because of the five schools that are opening in the fall: Battlefield High School, Freedom High School, Porter School, Ellis Elementary School and Williams Elementary School.
About two-thirds of the teachers hired have some experience, and one-third are new to teaching, said Rick Fitzgerald, director of personnel for Prince William schools.
Right now, about 600 teachers have been hired, of whom almost 300 are coming into new positions, said Darlene Faltz, supervisor of recruitment and specialty programs. More teachers are expected to join the system as the school year begins and principals make their final staffing decisions.
Teacher retirements appear to have reached a plateau, school officials said. "It sort of evened off about two years ago," Fitzgerald said.
Manassas and Manassas Park expect to hire about the same number of teachers as last year, or possibly fewer. Kenneth LaLonde, director of human resources for Manassas schools, said the system expects to hire 40 to 50 new teachers this year. As in Prince William, LaLonde said new hiring to replace retiring teachers seems to have slowed. "In general, our retention rate is increasing," he said.
Manassas Park plans to fill 22 vacancies this year, said Pam Blake, assistant to Superintendent Thomas DeBolt. Last year, there were 52 vacancies.
Dorothy McCabe, principal of Freedom High in Woodbridge, leads one of the schools driving up the need for new hires. About 75 teachers will be needed at the high school. She and Jack Parker, principal at Battlefield High, can take only 12 teachers as transfers from any one school, but McCabe said she is having no problems finding good candidates, even if they are new to the county.
"The key is getting the best and the strongest leaders on your team," McCabe said. "It's a domino effect." Those team leaders are then able to make decisions on the best teachers, which is particularly important when creating a new school, she said. "You're building a whole new family of teachers."
Darci Whitehead, principal at the Porter School for grades 1-6, said she has hired many teachers from out of state, from as far away as Arizona. Many are willing to move here because the teaching philosophy appeals to them, she said. The Porter School is modeled after Pennington School in Manassas. Students will have to wear uniforms and perform volunteer work, among other requirements. Parents also will be required to volunteer. Pennington School drew some of its teaching philosophies from the school created in Chicago by Marva Collins that stresses drills, phonics and memorization.
The new teachers "like the uniforms," she said. "They like the fact that students are going to be accountable, and that parents are going to have to volunteer."
Her school has hired at least 30 teachers, she said. She has at least one teacher familiar with Prince William at each grade level, and she has hired teachers from county art, music, physical education, speech, reading and special education programs. Most of her teachers are coming in with experience, she said. "I have been very fortunate."