Roane County reports math teacher shortage less than a month before classes begin


    Earlier this month, the Board of Education called it "a problem of crisis proportions." Nearly half of the mathematics teaching positions at the high school - vacant<p>{/p}

    Earlier this month, the Roane County Board of Education called it "a problem of crisis proportions." Nearly half of the mathematics teaching positions at the high school - vacant. School officials are carefully weighing their options, looking for the solution to filling those positions.

    Grandfather Robert Parrish still has some time before Niyah and Blake attend Roane County High School, but that doesn't mean he's not concerned about the county's teacher shortage now.

    "Finding math teachers is always a hard position anyway. Even going back 40 years, I know that was my hardest subject,” Parrish said.

    Hiring those who are qualified is an equation of its own. But Superintendent Dr. Richard Duncan said the board of education is hoping to help make that easier for teachers already employed with the Roane County school system.

    "Certified teachers, but not in math, who are interested in possibly switching subjects...substitute teachers, who are not certified outright, but are willing to teach. We're even going to support some of the costs that these folks have to undertake to become teachers or become certified in math,” Duncan said.

    That certification goes all the way through Calculus.

    "We have six students enrolled in AP Calculus this fall, yet all six of our teachers at the high school have to be eligible to teach that course,” Duncan said.

    But even if that all goes according to plan, Duncan says this is part of a larger issue, one that he doesn't see ending anytime soon.

    "Many of our four-year colleges and universities in the state are not putting out enough math teachers to fill the vacancies,” Duncan said.

    Those who do earn those degrees, Duncan said, leave the state for better opportunities.

    "It's simple economics. If you want more teachers, you're going to have to pay them more. The raise the teachers received this past year is great - but it's certainly not enough to meet demand, obviously. There's a huge demand out there,” Duncan said.

    Duncan and the BOE are looking for long-term solutions, even considering the possibility of bringing in "visiting teachers" from other countries, leaving families like Parrish's hoping for the best.

    "Years down the road, but I hope by that time it's turned around by then,” Parrish said.

    Faculty and staff report back to school August 13. Students' first day is August 16.

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