The sun sets behind Jefferson Twp. Junior/Senior High School, on Union Road. JEREMY P. KELLEY/STAFF
Photo: JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Photo: JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

County’s smallest school district still struggling to find teachers

Jefferson Twp. superintendent asks for patience and says some improvements have been made.

Two months after a Dayton Daily News investigation found significant understaffing at Jefferson Junior/Senior High School, Superintendent Richard Gates acknowledged the district is still struggling to fill all positions.

“If every (staffer) reports every day, we’re in pretty good shape. But when my principal has to substitute-teach, that’s a challenge,” Gates said. “We’re getting better, but it’s not easy to find substitutes.”

FIRST STORY: Jefferson schools understaffed, struggling

Jefferson Twp. Local Schools is the smallest school district in the area, with roughly 145 students at its grade 7-12 high school on Union Road. In September, parents and some school staff said the school was out of control – students lacking schedules, classrooms lacking teachers and teens roaming the halls or gym rather than getting proper education.

Gates said the district has already made some progress and asked for patience from the community.

“We have a couple of people in the hopper,” he said. “We have a couple situations where if we can get some folk who have applied as subs, if we can get acceptable background checks, we will have those classes (covered).”

RELATED: Parent arrested after fight at Jefferson High School

Jefferson teachers union President Brittney Fries acknowledged that the district has made some small steps forward at the high school. And the school board hired a high school English teacher Wednesday night.

But Fries said students sometimes still have multiple periods a day without a teacher certified in that subject because there’s no margin for error. Gates acknowledged that in a school so small, if two teachers are out sick, on leave or at training, there’s quickly a problem.

“A couple of board meetings ago, we hired a sub. Now we’re finding a sub for the sub,” Gates said.

Three years ago, a comprehensive Dayton Daily News review of teacher salaries found that Jefferson’s pay was lower than all local school districts at every stage of a teacher’s career, sometimes by a wide margin. A new contract has been approved since then, but pay is still an issue, and Jefferson’s daily substitute teacher pay is also lower than many surrounding districts.

RELATED: Jefferson schools oust both principals; parents upset

“In our last negotiated agreement, we made a conscious and deliberate effort to say let’s at least make this salary structure … we’re never going to be competitive with Oakwood and Centerville … but let’s make it more competitive,” Gates said.

Jefferson’s pay scale increased, but as other districts also approved new deals, Jefferson has remained near the bottom. Its maximum salary of $64,150 remains far behind all other area districts, and its starting salary of $33,756 is also near the bottom.

A small group of Jefferson Twp. residents came to Wednesday’s school board meeting, with one woman asking the board for an update on high school staffing. The school board did not respond to her question, but board President C.V. Mitchell spoke to the woman after the meeting. She declined comment to media, and Mitchell referred media questions to Gates.

RELATED: Residents petition to leave Jefferson Twp. schools

Jefferson Twp. Trustee Mike McLaughlin attended the meeting, but said afterward there hasn’t been much communication between the township’s government and its school system.

“I’m interested, and I’m here to listen to what they have to say,” McLaughlin said. “I heard your news (report), and I wanted to check in on things to see if it’s getting any better. I pay taxes too.”

Gates said Jefferson is trying hard to hire via the local education consortium’s process. That website lists eight teaching openings at the junior/senior high school.

“When you see the people we offered … everyone has a reason why they don’t want to come out here,” Gates said. “I’ve said this, and it sounds cliché, but I ask for your patience. We’re in the process of getting folks in here. … Our job is to go and just beat the bushes and get folk in here and keep getting them in here.”

EDUCATION: How did your district do on the state report card?

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