Wichita Public Schools welcomed hundreds of new teachers to the district at a new staff orientation Thursday morning.
The new teachers were greeted at Wichita Northwest High School with cheerleaders, a photo booth and a marching band.
“I am very excited to be starting the school year,” said Mike Flaigle, who will teach sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade math at Horace Mann Dual Language Magnet.
The number of vacant teaching positions in the district has been cut in half, from more than 100 last year to 54 this year.
Most of the remaining vacant positions are in special education, which has 26 teaching openings.
The district says the worsening teacher shortage across the country is part of the challenge in filling those remaining slots.
"I think a lot of the reason why people are not going into the profession is because there's kind of been this negative cloud hanging over public education,” said Shannon Krysl, the district’s chief human resources officer.
She said additional school funding from the Kansas Legislature has helped deal with the negative perception around the profession, which has driven away some would-be teachers. But it will take years to solve the shortage.
“This has been a 10-year trend, Krysl said, "so it’s not going to be like snapping your fingers and next year everything is going to be fixed."
Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.