Frederick County hires about 190 new teachers -- Gazette.Net







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This story was corrected on Friday, Aug. 17. An explanation follows the story.

One year ago, Kasey Smith was writing papers and studying for exams at college, but this fall, she will be the one who hands out assignments, grades tests and helps students with their homework.

Smith, a 2012 graduate of Hood College in Frederick, and a former New Jersey resident, is a new teacher getting ready for her first day as a special educator at Centerville and Urbana elementary schools.

“It’s terrifying but exciting,” Smith said.

As she prepares to transition into her first job after college, Smith has been attending the Frederick County Public Schools’ annual new teacher orientation sessions at Tuscarora High School, which began Monday.

During the four-day training, Smith and her new coworkers — who include other recent graduates as well as veteran educators — have been learning about county schools, studying the system’s rules and procedures, meeting co-workers and getting tips on effective classroom management.

All new teachers attend the workshops and are paid for that at their regular daily rate.

She has been getting a refresher course on all the myriad legal requirements she must meet as a special educator, from drafting individual education plans for every student, to setting specific goals for each of them and keeping detailed records of their progress.

As part of her training, Smith has also been able to tour her new buildings and see her classroom at Centerville Elementary and the portable classroom where she will be working at Urbana Elementary.

Smith has also met her teacher mentor — Heather Van Eck, a first-grade teacher at Urbana Elementary — who will be available to guide and assist her over the coming year.

“It has definitely given us a lot of good contacts and good references,” Smith said Wednesday.

As they get ready to welcome at least 190 new hires into county classrooms this year, county officials have been working to ensure that teachers are ready to step into their role as soon as the school year begins on Aug. 23.

Compared to last year, when county schools welcomed about 150 new teachers, the school system has seen an increase in new hires this year, primarily because more educators have been retiring, said Marsha Wise, the school system’s senior administrative manager for staffing.

The number of new teacher hires is not final yet because the school system is still filling up positions, Wise said.

While 67 percent of new teacher hires like Smith are recent graduates — 128 teachers — school officials are confident in their abilities.

“Every year this depends on the demographics of the hiring pool,” Wise said. “But we always look for somebody who is the best candidate for the position.”

To serve the needs of those new teachers, county schools offer a three-year mentoring program that provides them with training and support until they can become fully independent.

Still, Frederick County is also getting a number of veteran educators who are returning to the workforce after retiring from other counties or taking a break from the job, said Amy Cordis, a teacher specialist who oversees teacher training.

“Now we are in a transitional period where people really need to work,” Cordis said.

Of the incoming teachers this year, 111 are residents of Frederick County, and 162 live in Maryland. The remaining come from California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia, Wise said.

However, not all candidates chose to come to Frederick County this year. Ninety-four job applicants declined offers from Frederick County to accept jobs in Montgomery, Washington, Carroll, Howard and Baltimore counties, as well as Loudoun County, Va., Wise said.

In surveys that they completed after the hiring process, many of those candidates indicated they were seeking higher salaries, Wise said.

Of the 15 candidates who chose to move on to Montgomery County, one said he or she would be getting $10,000 more than in Frederick County. Of the five candidates going to Baltimore County, one expected a 20 percent salary increase above what he would get in Frederick County.

New teachers in Frederick County are paid $40,706 a year — the second lowest amount in the state.

Officials are trying to increase wages this year by giving teachers a step increase of 3.5 percent starting Oct. 1. The increase is funded by a furlough day for teachers at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

Still, the new teachers who attended the orientation workshops were excited to get jobs in Frederick County.

Carly Cross, a Harrisburg resident and a 2012 Mount St. Mary’s University graduate, said she turned down a general education job in Pennsylvania to accept a position as a third-and fourth-grade special education teacher at Lewistown Elementary in Thurmont, where she completed a teaching internship.

Cross will be teaching students in Lewistown’s Pyramid program, which serves students with emotional difficulties.

Teaching students with special needs was a choice that not all of Cross’s friends understood, but she said it allows her to give back to students who are never boring, and need the most help and assistance.

“We all have our special needs in some way,” she said. “They are special but they are also unique.”

With only a few days left before the start of the school year, Cross said she cannot wait to meet her students.

“I am petrified but I am also very excited,” Cross said.

Correction: The story and headline were clarified to indicate that at least 190 new teachers could be hired by the time school reopens.