Trying to replenish a supply of teachers that has run close to dry, county education officials will open a teacher credentialing program designed to quickly move instructors into the classroom.
The first group of 25 teaching candidates is scheduled to start classes Jan. 26 with a particular focus.
“What we’re really trying to target right out of the chute is special ed,” said Karen Ricketts, regional director of the teacher induction program for the Sonoma County Office of Education.
The county education office plans to open credential programs for multiple and single subjects next, she said.
There are currently 142 job vacancies in Sonoma County for certified staff, the vast majority of whom are teachers. Substitutes and intern teachers are being used to fill the gaps.
Sonoma State University’s School of Education is the largest local source of new teachers, with 299 students enrolled as candidates for a teaching credential. Most of those students are full time, which will contrast with the students in the new training program at the Sonoma County Office of Education, said county schools Superintendent Steve Herrington.
“Our program is for the re-entry person, primarily, someone who when the economic crisis hit, they had their BA but couldn’t find a job,” Herrington said. "They went and tried something else. Now they want to be a teacher.”
He added: “What the market is showing us is that a lot of individuals stayed home to raise a family when the recession hit, or a lot of other individuals went and did something else and they still want to become a teacher. That’s our market share.”
The county education office’s school is named the North Coast School of Education. Students with a bachelor’s degree can start teaching for a salary after passing the California standardized tests for teachers and completing 160 hours of coursework.
That is a different track than that traveled by university credential candidates, who first must complete field work as student teachers before being able to assume internships.
Tuition will be $4,250 a year, about a third that of SSU’s program. Ricketts said the school is working with Community First Credit Union to possibly offer low-interest, no-collateral loans to students.
Carlos Ayala, dean of the SSU education program, said the new school would serve a vital need.
“I think that the SCOE program is a wonderful complement to the program that SSU is providing,” Ayala said. “We alone cannot fill the need for teachers in our region, so players like SCOE and others are very helpful.”
The new school will be located at the SCOE offices on Skylane Boulevard.
There will be coaching programs for first-time teachers and, eventually, an administrative credential program, Herrington said.
Statewide this year, according to the Department of Education, school districts needed to fill 21,500 teacher openings while fewer than 15,000 credentials were being issued.
“I’m really pleased that the people at our county office recognize the need and pursued it,” Windsor schools superintendent Steven Jorgensen said.
“We have the perfect storm of a lack of available substitute teachers combined with a lack of available credentialed teachers due to retirees,” he said.
One way the district has managed to fill its vacancies, Jorgensen said, is by approving an increase in the daily rate it pays substitutes.