Petal Superintendent says teacher applicant pool shrinking

PETAL, MS. - Petal Superintendent Dr. Matt Dillon says his district struggled to fill teacher positions with qualified candidates this year.

Dr. Dillon says the teacher applicant pool is shrinking. This year he hired 42 new teachers.

He says, “I think what we are seeing across the state and even right here in Petal, the number of teacher applicants, even coming right out of college is decreasing.”

According to officials teacher licenses earned in Mississippi declined from 7,620 in 2007 to 603 in 2017. Dr Dillon says the district struggles to fill teacher positions in science, math, and education.

“That is requiring us to recruit all throughout the year" says Dr. Dillon. Petal School District looks for teachers, not just locally, but statewide too.

“We are working closely with Universities, we hold job fairs, both here in the district, but also we reach out and go to other job fairs. We are a part of the recruiting process and we reach out across the state and even beyond.”

William Carey University (WCU) tells us it has granted fewer degrees in undergraduate education since 2007. However, in the last 2 years they have seen record enrollments in the School of Education for advanced degrees. WCU released a statement to FOX 23:

"It is accurate that we have seen a decline in enrollment in undergraduate programs in the School of Education, as have many other colleges and universities.

However, we are continuing to see growth in our advanced degree programs (master’s degrees, Education Specialist, and Ph.D.). We have seen an increase in enrollment each term for the past three years and posted record enrollment numbers in the School of Education in fall 2015 and fall 2016. In fall 2016, we had 1,319 students enrolled in the School of Education, which is the first time ever enrollment in that school exceeded 1,300.

According to School of Education Dean Ben Burnett, the growth is attributed to the new degrees and programs we offer for teachers and administrators who want to continue their education and advance their careers. Several of our advanced education degrees are offered online to accommodate the schedules of working professionals."

Dr. Dillon believes there is a decrease because students are interested in other professions. “I just think you have a lot of people going into different professions unfortunately."

He adds, "The field of education is one of the best noble professions around, it is so rewarding because there are a lot of things you can do with students.”

According to Dr. Dillon he hopes students in high school and college see that education is a good career.

“We just want more juniors and seniors leaving high school to understand the importance of having quality educators and also those freshman and sophomores that do not know exactly what they do."

"It is a great way to make a living, and a great way to make a difference in the lives of students" says Dr. Dillon.

Lamar County Superintendent Tess Smith tells FOX 23 her district is not facing a teacher shortage and their recruitment efforts were better than last school year.

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