The Maricopa Unified School District indicates it is on track implementing override funds despite fighting the tide of a state-wide teacher shortage, and a few hiccups with the formation of an alternative school.
The first of the initiatives tied to the override funds – the purchase of new computers and electronic curriculum enhancements — has experienced little to no difficulty in implementation, according to MUSD superintendent Dr. Steve Chestnut.
The other two initiatives – the establishment of an alternative school for credit-deficient and non-traditional students, and the hiring of 50 new faculty to reduce student to teacher ratios – have experienced a few hold ups.
As for the alternative school, the Ram Academy, MUSD was able to secure a site at Maricopa High School and staff the program, save for one science teaching position. Chestnut said the district hopes to accommodate up to 120 students at the Ram Academy. The first year it will likely see only about 100, and administrators hope to build from there.
“I’m optimistic,” Chestnut said. “[MHS Principal] Renita Meyers is on it, and I think we’re going to get there.”
The district started sending letters in January to family members of credit-deficient students who will be juniors or seniors next year, Chestnut said. A follow-up letter is going out to those same students in the next week or so. After that, phone calls will be made to non-respondents.
As for the 50 new teachers, the district has filled 41 of those positions created by the override, Chestnut said. Furthermore, he feels despite other non-override positions being vacated, the district is on track to fill all 50 positions in time for the start of the school year next August.
Maricopa, like the rest of Arizona, suffers from lower than average faculty retention rates, and as the 41 positions were being filled over the past four months, another 24 were vacated due to assorted personal reasons including retirement.
“This is the time of year when people start to make plans for next year,” Chestnut said. “We always have attrition like any school district.”
Currently, with the nine vacant override positions and the 24 vacant positions, MUSD has 33 positions to fill by next fall, a fact that doesn’t seem to have Chestnut concerned.
“In some years, we hire up to 50 certified people anyway,” Chestnut said.
He went on to say the number of vacancies could grow as more teachers begin to prepare for next year. However, Chestnut said, the MUSD’s director of Human Resources Tom Beckett has participated in numerous job fairs throughout Arizona, as well as three fairs out of state, to promote MUSD and he is confident the positions will get filled.
The voter-approved budget override measure passed last November will generate enough revenue to implement three new initiatives within the district, each aimed at improving the quality of education.
Anyone interested in learning more about those positions or other opportunities of employment within the district is encouraged to contact the Maricopa Unified School District.