No teachers? Not a problem for this rural B.C. school district that offered cash incentives
Anonymous donation allowed Gold Trail district to offer eligible teachers up to $15K, relocation fees, vehicle
Schools across British Columbia are struggling to hire teachers, but one school district in a rural part of the province says cash incentives have helped secure enough staff for this year.
The superintendent for Gold Trail School District (School District 74), which includes Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Clinton, Lillooet and Lytton, says all of her schools have enough teachers despite falling 20 per cent short last year.
"We're off to a positive start in this school year, which we're very happy about," superintendent Teresa Downs told CBC Daybreak North host Shelley Joyce. "To be fully staffed has really had an impact on morale across the district."
Last spring, an anonymous donor offered new teachers $10,000 each to work in the Gold Trail School District — with the offer going up to $15,000 if they chose to work in Lytton, the village ravaged by a wildfire two years ago.
A $7,500 moving allowance was also included. The funds were distributed through a local community organization, Community Futures Sun Country.
Downs said the district hired 13 teachers who were eligible for the funding, in addition to others who weren't, and the board of education also provided those commuting to Lytton and Ashcroft/Cache Creek with a vehicle and gas card.
"I think [the incentive] made a complete difference. Without it, I'm not sure we would be having the same positive conversation," Downs said.
The district spends a lot of time explaining to candidates what the communities are like, Downs said, including the low cost of living and the warmth they're likely to experience from residents.
Downs said the district is very frank with potential teachers about discussing the conditions in Lytton, which is still rebuilding two years after a devastating fire destroyed most of the town.
"Right now, there aren't amenities, and there isn't housing, but Lytton and the surrounding First Nation communities are so incredibly kind and generous," she said.
Staffing problems across B.C.
Many school districts across B.C. are starting another academic year facing overcrowded, understaffed schools.
According to the B.C. Teachers' Federation, schools are in desperate need of teachers, especially educational assistants, principals and vice-principals.
The federation's president, Clint Johnston, told CBC News earlier this week that the provincewide staff shortage in education is affecting classrooms and the work of other teachers.
Other school districts in the Interior are also testing out cash incentives to hire teachers, especially in remote areas.
Last month, Kamloops Thompson School District superintendent Rhonda Nixon told CBC's Daybreak Kamloops it was offering signing bonuses to attract teachers to places like Blue River in the North Thompson region.
Nixon said Blue River is a bit of an anomaly in that it is a one-room school serving up to 30 students in different grades.
The district was able to apply to the B.C. Public School Employers Association to apply for an incentive of an additional $10,000 a year in addition to the affordable housing the district already provides.
"We had [funding] approval just at the end of July, beginning of August, and we reposted the advertisement with the incentive, and we were able to fill the position as of last week," Nixon said.
In Kamloops, Nixon said, staffing is "fantastic," but the district does struggle with relief positions for support staff and teaching positions.
"We have resorted to hiring full-time for relief positions in rural areas so that we have someone who can be available, and that has served us well," she said.
With files from CBC Daybreak Kamloops