Teacher shortage hits Galveston hard

May 8, 2009 2:45:36 PM PDT
There are just a few weeks left until the end of the school year. It's a time when students should be cramming to learn their last lessons before final exams. But a teacher shortage has dozens of students at Ball High School in Galveston spending part of their school days watching movies. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

To say this has been a difficult year for the Galveston Independent School District would be, by any measure, an understatement. After Hurricane Ike, the student population of Ball High School dropped from close to 2,400 to around 1,900. Finding teachers to teach them is a bigger challenge than it was before the storm left the island and its residents rebuilding for the foreseeable future.

"The kids have been very flexible. We appreciate that," said Ball High Principal Dean Blair. "It's not the environment that we want."

Especially when the teachers they have call in sick or take days off. The district says finding enough substitutes has become a task bordering on the impossible.

Galveston ISD Superintendant Lynne Cleveland explained, "Things have been in a turmoil. People have moved. Our pool for subs is just lacking."

Today 22 teachers are absent. There are four substitutes. It took two hours this morning to figure out how to cover the gaps.

Blair said, "What we've tried to do is be creative as we can."

The school has resorted to combining classes where necessary, or having teachers take extra students into their otherwise smaller classes. O days when it's particularly rough, they group some classes together in the large auditorium where the teens watch movies for a class period or two. Though that remedy likely will go away given the attention its getting.

"We are looking at some other alternatives, maybe pulling some extra staff from the other campuses to help with the high school" Cleveland said. "One of the things I am looking at for next year is to pay our regular teachers to cover on their conference period."

Another remedy administrators are considering for the future is the possibility of having substitute teachers on staff so they would be in the building each day ready to fill in where needed.

Administrators tell Eyewitness News that getting high school substitute teachers is always somewhat of a challenge, and the problem is particularly acute during the spring, when there are so many off campus end of year activities that require teacher supervision away from their classes.

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