More than a dozen retirements and resignations by district administrators, with more expected in the foreseeable future, have forced Pickerington Local School District leaders to look for ways to ensure they have a pool of qualified candidates.

More than a dozen retirements and resignations by district administrators, with more expected in the foreseeable future, have forced Pickerington Local School District leaders to look for ways to ensure they have a pool of qualified candidates.

One way to do that, said district Superintendent Karen Mantia, is to encourage more district teachers to pursue masters' degrees in educational leadership.

Earlier this month, the PLSD Board of Education agreed, and approved a $52,000 program to help offset tuition costs of 10 district employees seeking masters' degrees through a University of Dayton program.

The board recently filled more than a dozen administrative positions for the 2008-09 school year and several more to coordinate with the opening of three new schools the following year. At least half were filled with candidates from within the district.

Mantia said she anticipates that finding qualified individuals to fill administrative roles will become increasingly difficult.

"This is not just a local problem," Mantia told the board. "Across the state and nation, school districts are encountering this same challenge. Filling school positions, once thought of as a summer task, has become an ongoing responsibility."

The University of Dayton program, called the Cohort Leadership Graduate Program, is a two-year program scheduled to start in the summer of 2008.

The school board has agreed to pick up the cost of 40 percent of tuition, up to $52,200, for 10 participants. The district will use state professional development funds to pay the bill.

Candidates enrolled in the program and seeking reimbursement will be asked to sign a commitment to stay in the district for at least three years after completing the program.

Applicants who are full-time staff members and have been in the district at least three years will receive consideration.

"Not only is the district looking to attract new teachers, but also, we are interested in retaining high-quality leaders for our administrative positions," Mantia said. "While I expect the challenge of filling educational positions to continue, I want to reassure the board of education and the community that as a district, we are working to provide the best educators and administrators for our students in an efficient and effective manner."

The University of Dayton will provide the courses in Pickerington and provide textbooks at no additional charge.

msegaloff@thisweeknews.com