Schools look to retain teachers, draw recruits
Community members speak out against transgender bathroom usage
Charles County Public Schools is moving towards a year-round teacher recruitment cycle as it seeks to replace approximately 15 percent of its teaching staff annually.
Pamela Murphy, executive director of human resources, said the school system hired 194 new teachers for the 2016-17 school year, but still has 23 vacancies that are being filled by long-term substitute teachers.
Murphy gave a report on teacher recruitment efforts during the board of education’s Oct. 18 meeting, stating that the human resources department screened more than 1,400
applications for teaching positions — the majority of which were from unqualified individuals.
Approximately 45 percent of the new hires graduated from a college in Maryland. Twenty new hires, or roughly 10 percent, were alumni of Charles County Public Schools, Murphy said.
The school system hired 67 teachers of color, only 28 percent of whom were from an historically black college or university, or HBCU.
“Overall, we are seeing a decrease in the numbers of teachers we are hiring from HBCUs and that’s just because the numbers just aren’t there,” Murphy said.
The majority of new teachers (56 percent) were recent college graduates. Murphy said the human resources department is looking into reaching out to more schools in other markets, looking into hiring teachers from U.S. territories, expanding its efforts year-round to recruit teachers, targeting winter graduates and creating focus groups to get feedback on how to better keep teachers in the system.
The top reason teachers leave Charles County is to move out of state, Murphy said, often to relocate closer to family.
Earlier in the meeting, Deputy Superintendent Amy Hollstein updated the board on teacher mentoring. The board provided additional funding for teacher mentoring last year, allowing the school system to expand its mentoring program with two new initiatives, Hollstein said.
“We asked [principals] to bring us ideas of what else can we can do,” Hollstein said. “And they came up with some great ideas, some things we can implement in the future, and some things we can implement now.”
Hollstein said one of the initiatives is the development of a process whereby new teachers can go to another school to observe more experienced teachers, and those teachers can come and observe and work with the new instructor.
Another initiative is providing a stipend to support experienced teachers working and collaborating with new teachers after school.
Transgender bathrooms remain a topic of comments
More than 60 people attended the public comment phase of the meeting. Seventeen parents, students and community members spoke on the issue of transgender students being allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their gender identity.
Last month, school system officials said that 15 of the school system’s approximately 26,000 students identified themselves to school administrators as transgender or gender nonconforming, and of those, only three had requested use of school facilities that conform with their gender identity.
Charles County resident Eugene Kirscht of La Plata said that an online petition opposed to the policy has gathered more than 2,000 signatures.
“As more people become aware of the petition, the number will continue to grow to the point where you have to repeal it,” Kirscht said.
James Ammons of Indian Head said allowing transgender students to use the facilities matching their gender identity was “opening a Pandora’s box.”
“I think that cooler heads should prevail, I think we should look at this objectively, we should look at this honestly, and the needs of the many definitely outweigh the needs of the few, the 10 or the 20, or the one,” Ammons said, a reference to “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
Erin Fawls, a student at Piccowaxen Middle School, said the policy has made her uncomfortable using the girls’ bathroom at school.
“My friends and I are afraid to use the bathroom because there could be a boy in it,” Erin said.
Her father, Chris Fawls, said he believed the U.S. Department of Education guidance issued last spring identifying gender identity as protected under Title IX is in error.
“I seriously believe that the federal guidance will open the door to sexual assault,” Fawls said.
Chris Ogne, pastor of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Bryans Road, noted that this is the fourth school board meeting community members have come to speak out against the policy.
“The whole community is against this,” Ogne said to the board. “What I’m asking is that the board instruct [Superintendent Kim] Hill to change the implementation of this policy. You can do this.”