FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska school districts are having trouble recruiting the teachers they need, a fact that was reflected during a three-day job fair at the University of Alaska Fairbanks this week.
The fair drew 109 teachers, down from the usual 250 to 300, according to coordinator Melissa Hill with Alaska Teacher Placement. Recruiters packed up early when it became clear there simply weren't any more teachers to interview.
''In one day I saw everyone that had an interest in the positions I have available, and I could have done that in the first hour and a half,'' said John Davis, superintendent of the Bering Strait School District, based in Unalakleet.
Salaries that are no longer exemplary, a difficult certification process in Alaska, and a nationwide shortage are making it increasingly difficult for districts to fill their vacancies, Hill said. A fair in Anchorage in April usually draws about 700 people but saw a similar dearth of teachers, with only 400 in attendance, she said.
Many districts used to begin recruiting at the Anchorage job fair, said Davis of the Bering Strait district. But no longer.
''We can't afford to,'' Davis said. ''We, like many districts, simply got started the first of the year.''
At the Anchorage job fair, said Denali Borough Superintendent Christopher Hagar, districts were offering contracts on the spot in what he called a feeding frenzy.
Alaska used to have one of the highest teacher pay scales in the nation, but that isn't true any more, said Bering Strait personnel director Jim Hickerson. ''We don't have the draw we once had.''
The squeeze isn't confined to the Bush.
Beth Behner, personnel director for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, said she has noticed a marked decrease in applicants for teaching positions, especially in specialized fields.
''Our most difficult positions to fill are special ed positions, and we are dealing with real low numbers of applicants for speech pathologist positions and school psychologist positions,'' Behner said. Other specialties in demand include foreign language teachers and teachers for the emotionally disturbed, she said.
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