The school year has ended for students, but the summer provides no break for Southern Maryland public school administrators in charge of hiring hundreds of teachers and dozens of principals still needed to fill vacancies.
"It's always hectic. It never slows down," said Keith Hettel, Charles County's assistant superintendent for human resources. "It is not going to end as long as Charles County keeps growing.''
To accommodate a steady increase in students and combat a shortage of teachers, public schools in Charles County, for instance, offer signing bonuses, stipends to defray the cost of moving and help in navigating the local real estate market.
Before the end of the summer, Hettel must fill 115 teaching spots; he started the recruiting process with 265 vacancies. He is turning to colleges in states such as Michigan, Ohio and New York because, he said, "Maryland does not produce half the teachers we need in the state."
St. Mary's County will have more than a dozen new top administrators in the public school system next fall, but the county is still searching for teachers to fill about 70 vacancies.
Interim Superintendent Lorraine Fulton said it is becoming harder to find people willing to take the top jobs. Instead, she sees more people opting to oversee teacher training or tutoring individual children.
"There are many more opportunities for young educators to vary the direction they're moving in their careers," Fulton said. "There's opportunity for change, but you don't take all the heavy responsibility that comes with being a principal."
Unfortunately, she said, "it creates some heavy burdens for school systems as they seek to find highly qualified leaders."
This month, Fulton appointed 13 administrators, including Ryan Hitchman as principal at Margaret Brent Middle School and 11 vice principals at various schools. Hitchman was a history teacher at Great Mills High School and an assistant principal at Chopticon High School before assuming the top job at Margaret Brent.
St. Mary's also named Sherry Pinto as principal of Green Holly Elementary School, Paul Fancella as principal of Park Hall Elementary School and Sandra Kerner as principal of Ridge Elementary School.
Calvert County public schools superintendents were attending a conference this week, and other officials could not be reached to comment on their system's hiring status.
In Charles County, teachers of chemistry, math, Latin and special education are in highest demand. They receive signing bonuses of $1,500. Other science teachers, media specialists and speech therapists are eligible for bonuses of $1,000.
Charles County chips in $300 for moving expenses and reserves a limited number of apartments for teachers in La Plata.
"Everyone in the state is dealing with it at some level," said John H. Cox, assistant superintendent for instruction.
Complicating the recruiters' task are factors such as a growing pool of teachers reaching retirement age, teachers transferring to other school systems and others leaving the profession. Throughout the state, the highest turnover occurs among teachers in the first five years of their careers. For that reason, Charles County has created an office to help new teachers adjust to the classroom and the area.
In St. Mary's County, officials said that they have hired 51 teachers but that about 70 openings remain to be filled.
The most difficult subject areas to fill are special education, math, science and speech-language pathology, school officials said.