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Blue Ribbon Commission holds first meeting

Posted at 6:37 PM, Sep 11, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS -- What can Indiana school districts to do find and keep good teachers? That’s the key question before the newly formed Blue Ribbon Commission, a group that met for the first time Friday afternoon.

The commission includes educators, lawmakers, and other stakeholders and will focus on recruiting and retaining high quality teachers. 

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The number of people pursuing their first teaching position has dropped close to 20-percent in five years.

One member of the Blue Ribbon Commission said it’s putting the future of Indiana’s children at stake.

Stephen Gainey has been a teacher and administrator in Warren Township for close to 20 years. In that time, he’s seen a lot of change, including the number of people who want to work for the district. He said applications for open teaching positions are down from hundreds per job, to about two dozen this summer.

“We found some great candidates, but it was a tough couple of weeks because they were just not there. I was calling friends, trying to make connections,” Gainey said.

He points to pay as one reason people are not pursuing teaching careers.

"There are more opportunities in other areas, less men are going into the profession, it's hard to support a family,” Gainey said.

He argues the job has become more difficult.

Raymond Park Intermediate Academy is now a full-service facility, providing breakfast, clothes and school supplies to students who need them.

"Students nowadays aren't coming just for the education, for some of them this is the safest place they come to."

Gainey is one of 47 people appointed to the Blue Ribbon Commission, focused on recruiting and retaining high quality teachers.

"Once you hire a teacher, and once you know they're a good teacher, you want to keep them. And so what is it that we need to put in place to ensure that happens?"

At the first meeting, the group focused on retention. It is most challenging in schools with high rates of poverty and minority students. The commission is identifying and discussing the root causes, including public perception of the profession. 

"What's at stake is our kid's futures. We are, someone said teachers are not doctors or lawyers, or scientists, but we're the ones who create them,” Gainey said.

Friday’s meeting is the first of six planned. The next will focus on recruitment.