Park City dodges state teacher shortage
Teachers are hard to come by, unless you live in Park City.
School districts throughout Utah face the problem of teacher shortages but Park City School District is largely unaffected by the issue. Director of Human Resources for the district, Tim McConnell, says, "At this point in time we’ve been fortunate."
Park City High School Principal, Hal Smith, agrees that the problem is not as prevalent in Park City as it is in other parts of the state, "I don’t think it’s what we see in other places. It might be a problem in the future."
According to Smith school districts have difficulty filling positions in several areas including special education and advanced mathematics.
McConnell feels a factor in teacher shortages is President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative, which has increased the requirements to be employed as a teacher. If an instructor does not meet with the federal standards outlined in the initiative they must get additional education or take competency tests.
Teachers do not always look on these additional demands in a favorable light. "They feel like there are unnecessary requirements to continue teaching things they’ve been teaching for years," McConnell said. This leads to instructors leaving the profession.
The largest teacher shortage is found in Special Education. "Some of the highest levels of expectations have to do with people in Special Ed," McConnell said. "It also now probably has a higher level of requirements. It’s just going to get harder and harder to find qualified people."
PCSD, though, has managed to escape this problem. "We have a pretty steady number of special ed students. We’ve been pretty stable with our special ed staff," McConnell said.
Special Education teacher Brian Hoyt has been with the Park City School District for 15 years. When asked about the shortage in special education he said, "It may be hard to find the right person who wants to be in that role." He sites the high quality of life in Park City as a reason to stay, "I think Park City is considered a desirable district."
In response to the district having a high retention rate Hoyt noted, "I would think that’s because people are willing to drive up here in order to have a better pay situation and a better form of support."
Another contributing factor in the teacher shortage is that some school districts overextend themselves monetarily through the retirement program they offer. PCSD avoids this problem with a conservative retirement package, said McConnell.
The district does encounter an occasional glitch, "Sometimes we have problems depending on the timing and the specific positions we have to fill. Typically if we are looking in the spring and going through our regular hiring process we probably have fewer problems than other school districts," McConnell says.
He also credits PCSD’s popularity to the generous salary and benefits package that is offered to employees.
A good work environment also plays a factor. It helps with the recruitment and retention of teachers. "They feel good about the support, the people they work with, the programs we offer and the quality of education the kids get. We’re hopeful that we are able to not be impacted as much as the other districts," McConnell said.
There are also other benefits to working in Park City that might lure teachers here rather than to other districts. "It’s nice being out of the inversion. Being able to strap your mountain bike onto your car and go for a ride after work is also a great incentive," McConnell said.
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The Park City Ice Arena is expected to temporarily close later in 2021 to allow crews to replace the ice surface and perform other maintenance work, one of a series of projects City Hall plans to outline at an upcoming open house. It will be an in-person event.