Friday, July 23, 2010

One teacher's voice

I spent much of my Wednesday at work writing this story, and I think it came out great. Certainly on par with anything I've done in Nashua since I started last month. The story will probably run on the front of tomorrow's paper, but I wanted it to be available NOW, since I'm not a patient person, so I decided to copy and paste it here. Enjoy.

Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad said he’d never seen anything like it. He wasn’t alone.

It’s not every day that fashion sparks an important issue at a Board of Education meeting.

Katherine Evans, 29, of Hudson, stepped to the microphone Monday night to speak about her struggles to find a job in education since 2008. For emphasis, she wore a white T-shirt with the words “HIRE ME!” inked in large green letters on the front. The shirt said, in smaller letters, “(See back for details)” under the hiring plea. A copy of her resume was printed on the back.

Evans said she wanted to be a voice for all the good teachers who are out of work and unable to land a job in the tough economic conditions. She said her speech was “out of character,” but she wasn’t sure how else to be heard.

“I wanted to express myself and network a little,” she said after the meeting.

Evans graduated from Keene State University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and also completed a year-long extended education program at Southern Maine University, which she called “very intense” and difficult to get into.

“I thought that program would be the hardest part,” she said. “It really prepares you. I just wish I could use it.”

Evans said she has applied for “hundreds” of jobs since 2008 with no luck and even sent out 60 resumes last month to every school from Nashua to Concord. She received two responses.

“I don’t know if it’s what you know or who you know at this point,” she said.

Evans is hardly alone, and she knows it. The labor market in education has been flooded with teachers searching for jobs, but the positions just aren’t there.

“I think there’s a lot of good talent out there that we’re not able to take advantage of because of the lack of positions open,” Conrad said. “We’re finding many more resumes coming in than in the past from both new teachers and veteran teachers.”

Hudson Superintendent Randy Bell has seen a similar trend.

“Two years ago, we had a very large number, something like 40 vacancies,” he said. “But last year, they dwindled probably in half, and this year, at this point, it’s running a little less than that. So we do have vacancies, but nowhere near what we had two years ago.”

Mary Frazzetta, a human resources assistant for the Merrimack School District, said they have filled 12 positions this summer and three more are still available.

For those 15 teaching jobs, Frazzetta said the district received almost 1,000 resumes and applications.

“As high as that seems,” she said, “it’s not as abnormal as it sounds.”

Dana O’Gara, the director of human resources in the Nashua School District, said there were 954 applications for 87 jobs this year, 40 of which have already been filled.

“With the wealth of applications, many people do not get interviews,” O’Gara said.

But all of these schools are still hiring. Conrad and Bell said they are not cutting jobs from the budget, and they always have positions open up when teachers leave at the end of the school year. The difficulty comes from the abundance of people who want those jobs.

“There’s a lot more teachers out there in the waiver market,” Conrad said.

Most of the open positions vary across subject and age fields, but Bell said in Hudson there have been more middle school and high school positions available than in the elementary schools.

With no pattern forming in the job market, it means teachers like Evans have to stay on their toes.

“I love fourth grade, but beggars can’t be choosers,” Evans said. “I’ll get my Praxis in anything at this point.”

Evans is certified to teach kindergarten through eighth grade and has picked up anything she can get her hands on for experience. Right now, she receives wages from the federally funded Title I teaching program as a reading interventionist in Manchester – where she works one-on-one with children to help them learn to read – but is only paid for 30 hours per week even if she works more.

“If I could live off Title I pay, I would,” Evans said. “I just can’t.”

Her husband of four years, Josh Evans, landed a job as a teacher in the Litchfield School District, but Katherine Evans said money is still tight. The couple used much of their savings to pay back her college loans in 2008.

Evans said she has felt doubts about studying for a teaching degree since she’s been unemployed, but other jobs don’t have the same gratification.

“I’ve had jobs that had a potential for nice paychecks, but I just wasn’t satisfied at the end of the day,” she said. “In this job, you don’t do it for the paycheck.”

Multiple board members wished Evans good luck and commented on her “chutzpah” to get up in front of the board on Monday night and fight for teachers in New Hampshire.

Still, there was little Conrad could do except put her resume on file in the school district, something Evans said has already been done “multiple times” since her unemployment began.

But even if her attempt fails, Evans said she knows it will happen. In the meantime, she’s just trying to keep a positive attitude in mind.

“I like to think I have a good sense of humor about things, so why not have a little fun with this?” Evans said. “It looks a lot better than puffy paint would have.”

1 comment:

Penny Kittle said...

Great piece, Cam. Thanks for the shout out for teachers who are out there trying to do the right thing.