A hiring frenzy to recruit teachers for start of school year

Schools & Students

Teachers on Call

In an ideal year, VSB would have about 800 teachers on call (TOC) on its TOC list. On call teachers provide cover in the event that regular teachers are unavailable. The TOC list includes teachers with many different specialties, so a total number may not represent the number available for any given class needing a teacher on call.

“Last year we had fewer than that, closer to 600,” says associate superintendent Julie Pearce. “This year so far, our list will be smaller than last year.”

Given the need for more TOCs, VSB is holding orientation sessions to introduce new teachers to the district and, like many districts, is also turning to retired teachers. VSB expects to have approximately 100 or more retired teachers on the TOC list this year.

“With every B.C. school district in hiring mode, many who would have been TOCs are going right into classrooms so, like most districts, our TOC list is significantly shorter than we’d like,” adds Pearce. “We continue to recruit TOCs and expect to keep that up all year. By September 30, when all the class numbers are finalized, we will know better how many remain on our TOC list.”

VSB human resources staff are continuing their hiring frenzy as students at the Vancouver School Board’s 109 schools come for their first full day of the 2017-18 school year.

It has been a very busy summer for VSB’s district staff, especially the human resources team, as they worked to hire more than 300 additional teachers to address the requirements of the provincial agreement with the BC Teachers’ Federation regarding class size and composition.

“It’s exciting for us to have more teachers in our schools, and as educators, we know that this will benefit student learning,” says Julie Pearce, an associate superintendent with VSB. “But it’s been a big challenge to get them all hired and in place this quickly.”

On top of job openings posted earlier in the summer, the district posted a further 280 part and full time teaching positions on August 22, which was roughly three times the normal posting for that time of year.

“This reflects the extra hiring needed to meet the Province's agreement with the BC Teacher's Federation on class size and composition, and of the greater movement of teachers between B.C. school districts resulting from this province-wide hiring need,” explains Pearce. The teaching positions posted in August are a mix of resource, counsellor and classroom positions.

“The good news is that we have many candidates for almost all of our open positions and principals are working through their hiring processes as quickly as they can,” she adds. “Many teachers have been hired and are already in the schools, and others are still in the hiring process. We hope to have an update on the numbers by the end of the first week of school, or shortly thereafter.”

Hiring a teacher is different from hiring for other jobs, because once employed by VSB, that teacher can remain with the district for decades. Pearce says that means hiring teams have to do their due diligence to ensure that VSB is getting the people it needs, even when the timelines are this tight.

VSB does expect to be short in a handful of positions, notably French Immersion teachers, and some special education areas like psychologists and speech language pathologists, but hiring teams remain optimistic about filling those positions.

“There will be a trained teacher in front of each classroom by the time classes begin in earnest this fall,” assures official trustee Dianne Turner. “It not unusual to have teaching positions to fill in August and early September, although this year there are more than usual. This is partly a result of the timing of the confirmation of funding from the Province for teachers needed to meet the restored contract language on class size and composition, and partly due to competition with other districts for teachers.”

Turner notes that principals will communicate with parents and students about the process for the start of school year at each VSB school. “It usually takes a week or so before all students are placed in their regular classes with their teachers,” she says.

Some are asking if the high cost of housing in Vancouver is affecting VSB’s hiring. “Affordability is of course a factor, but it’s a similar situation for most Lower Mainland districts,” says Turner. “This year in particular, we’re seeing a lot of movement of teachers between all the districts. Every teacher who lives in one place and works in another can now consider changing districts.”

VSB has been successful, however, in attracting a good number of experienced teachers from other districts and from independent schools.

“With all the new positions this year, all of us at the VSB are very excited about what the new school year with hold,” says Pearce. “This will be a tremendous year.”