District facing math teacher shortfall

Rock Hill schools, like many districts in the state, are having a tough time hiring all the math teachers the district needs.

With little more than a week remaining until students return to class, the hunt is still on for one more math teacher.

"It's always been difficult," said Beckye Partlow, director of personnel for Rock Hill schools. "But it's not been impossible, and right now, I feel like we're facing the impossible because we're facing this vacancy and we don't have prospects."

The district is not alone in its struggle.

"Everybody is having trouble getting good math teachers, and a big part of that is economics," said Jim Foster, spokesman for the state department of education.

Foster said many people with math backgrounds realize they can make more money doing something other than teaching. But not learning an adequate amount of math can be harmful to students.

"So many of the highest-paying and the most in-demand careers rely on math skills," he said.

The state will begin offering bigger LIFE and Palmetto Fellows scholarships to students in math and science programs in an effort to get people more involved in those fields.

Partlow said that in all, about 10 math vacancies in Rock Hill already have been filled. That's out of about 82 total math positions.

Partlow has been working to fill the jobs for the past six months.

The remaining full-time position is at Rock Hill High School. There also is a part-time job open at Phoenix Academy.

And the hiring challenge won't end when those positions are filled.

Superintendent Lynn Moody plans to push for additional math teachers to be added this year.

The school board will receive a budget request today which, among other things, asks for more math teachers at Phoenix Academy.

Moody said there are some gaps between what's being taught and what's being tested and additional math offerings would help solve that problem.

"We're working hard to get our achievement scores up," she said.

About 36 percent of Algebra 1 students got a D or worse on the 2006 end-of-course examination. This year's scores are not yet available.

Although plans have not yet been approved by the school board, Moody said she is exploring different options to boost scores including hiring teachers to offer early morning or late afternoon classes and tutorials.

To ease the struggle of filling those additional jobs, human resources will look to retired teachers, people who are willing to work part-time and those who have math backgrounds and are willing to seek certification while they teach to fill the void.

Moody said she is optimistic that the necessary people for the jobs are available in the community.

"It's not just about this one position," she said. "It's kind of an ongoing call."