When school starts Monday, Aug. 18, 50 new teachers will join the Worthington City Schools staff.
The new hires will be at all grade levels and in many subject areas. Some are fresh out of college; others came to Worthington from other districts.
Most will replace retirees, as the teacher retirement trend that started three or four years ago continues to pick up steam.
Not only are several teachers hitting retirement age at the same time, but the State Teachers Retirement System formula for determining retirement benefits also will change next year.
Exiting before the change occurs is profitable, as benefits will decrease beginning in a year, said Randy Banks, Worthington's director of human resources.
This time next year, he said, he expects to see 100 new teachers in front of Worthington classrooms. Most will replace retirees who will leave just in time to take advantage of the more lucrative retirement-benefit formula.
For him and other school human-resource directors across the state, that means a rush to attract the best teachers. It will be an employees' market.
Banks said he doesn't expect a shortage of applicants, though. He does not know the number of applicants who applied this year, he said, but said the district always receives more than enough applicants to fill openings.
One problem that might not be solved soon, though, is the lack of minority applicants.
During the Worthington Board of Education's Aug. 11 meeting, board member Charlie Wilson said he did not see any minority teachers at the new-teachers reception held recently.
"I hope next year our teaching staff will better reflect our demographics," Wilson said.
The problem is in finding minority candidates, Banks said.
"We, like every district, are struggling to find high-quality minority teachers," he said.
Worthington is now tracking local minority graduates who plan to study education in college. They are being recruited even before they graduate, being lured to return to the district from which they graduated.
"Our highest success rate is with people familiar with our community who go into education," Banks said.
He said filling difficult positions and attracting experienced teachers has become a little easier this year because of a change in the teachers contract that went into effect July 1.
New wording loosens former requirements that new hires start their careers in Worthington at the same level on the salary scale as they would be in their former jobs.
Several teachers this year were hired at a lower level on the salary schedule, based on years of experience. One new teacher went down three levels when she moved to Worthington from another district, he said.
On the other hand, a technology teacher was granted three additional years of experience on the salary schedule. Technology is one of the subject areas in which qualified applicants are difficult to find, Banks said.
He said he appreciates the flexibility of the new contract.
"It's a way to get more experienced teachers within our budget," he said.