Districts could face shortage in coming years

Are public schools in the Highlands facing a “retirement cliff”?

That seemed possible as classes started this week, with two of three school districts reporting an increase in new teachers driven in part by an uptick in retirements.

Philip Benante, the Haldane superintendent, said the district expects to see many retirements over the next 10 years as its current teachers reach age 55 and have 30 or more years of service, which means they can leave with the maximum pension.

Haldane High School Principal Julia Sniffen (lower left) recently took new district teachers on a tour of Cold Spring. (Photo provided)

Typically, Haldane hires two to five teachers each year, Benante said; this year the school board has appointed 11. The positions were available because of retirements and teachers who left for other jobs. The district, which has about 100 teachers, also added four positions, including a foreign language teacher, two special education teachers and an elementary school teacher.

The Beacon school district typically hires 15 educators annually and this year appointed 23, including eight teaching assistants and a middle-school counselor, Superintendent Matt Landahl told the school board earlier this month. (The district has about 250 teachers.) Over the summer, 13 teachers informed the board they plan to retire: two in 2024, one in 2025 and 10 in 2026.

About a third of teachers across New York are aged 50 or older, according to the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, prompting concerns that the state may soon be standing at the edge of a “retirement cliff.” That’s been a key factor in a campaign by the Department of Education to hire 180,000 teachers over the next decade.

“We’re losing a large number of teachers, and we don’t have the people to replace them,” said Ben Amey, a representative for New York State United Teachers. He noted that enrollment in teacher training programs has fallen 50 percent since 2009.

New Classroom Teachers

K-2 special education
Grade 2
Grade 5
Grade 7 math
Middle school English
Middle school science
Secondary art
Secondary special education
Languages (Spanish)
Languages (French)
High school chemistry

Elementary special education
Middle school English
Middle school Spanish

Elementary (5)
Elementary music (2)
Elementary speech
Middle school music
Middle school physical education
Middle school English (2)
Middle school special education
High school physical education

According to the union, the biggest shortages are in special education, bilingual education, English as a Second Language, science, mathematics, English language arts, social studies, world languages, career and technical education, health education, literacy, and library science. But those shortages are having the most impact on metropolitan and rural areas, not districts such as Haldane, Garrison and Beacon, according to NYSUT.

Nevertheless, local districts are feeling the effects. At Garrison, Superintendent Carl Albano said that difficulty in finding teachers has caused him to adjust his hiring strategy, posting positions for a school psychologist in January and a special education teacher in March.

“I wouldn’t want to be conducting a search in June, July or August” after the school year has ended and the competition is tougher as districts begin their searches. Garrison, which has students in grades K-8, this year hired three teachers; it has 27.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Joey Asher is a freelance writer and former reporter for The Journal News.

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