Specialized staff positions difficult to fill

District sees fewer applicants for coaching, elective teaching posts



Above, cheerleaders perform at a football game last fall. The team is now working with their third coach this year. In order to increase retention of coaches, RJUHSD formed an Athletics Ad Hoc Committee.

This year marks the first year photography will be a Career and Technical Education course, under the name Digital Photography. The district is currently working with new RHS photography teacher Steve Fischer to help him become CTE certified. This will be the third year RHS has taken a photography teacher through the CTE certification process after hiring.

According to principal David Byrd, the district hired two separate photography teachers over the summer, both of whom had to drop the position due to personal circumstances. Despite conducting initial interviews in May, the district had to find someone to fill the position near the start of school year. This limited their ability to find someone who was both well suited for the position and had a CTE credential.

These difficulties filling a staffing vacancy are not unique. Throughout the district, certain positions can be more difficult to fill. These positions include athletic coaches and bus drivers, as well as certain elective, foreign language and special needs teachers.

Byrd has noticed that, when compared to teaching positions, a coaching position can often receive significantly fewer applicants.

“You certainly don’t get the same number of applicants for a very part-time, stipended position… One is a full-time job with benefits and all those things and one is not,” Byrd said. “It’s sort of a labor of love – it’s in a lot of respects, ‘Would you be willing to volunteer to do this?’ You’ve got to want to do it.”

Golf coach Corey Fukuman feels that coaching does create a lot of work, but that the bond it does create with students makes it worthwhile.

“Coaching is becoming more difficult because of some of the demands not only as a coach but as a teacher – the time that it involves,” Fukuman said. “But I do it because I love being around the kids. I love seeing them get better. It’s fun for me and it’s a good out for me after school to be around them and help them.”

According to assistant superintendent of personnel Brad Basham, coaching positions also tend to have high turnover, leaving many jobs open each year. He feels that in cases where there are fewer applicants, the district’s priority is training a staff member to help them be successful.

This can lead to hiring young and inexperienced coaches who might be more likely to make mistakes. One example of this came this summer, when 22-year-old cheer coach Gabrielle Vega was arrested for DUI with a student in the vehicle. It was her first DUI, and Vega apologized to cheer parents and students for the incident.

“We usually don’t have to settle,” Basham said. “Every once in awhile I can wish we had somebody with more experience, but we’re going to take someone less experienced and try to work with them to help them grow into the position. Sometimes that works for us, sometimes it doesn’t, but sometimes it doesn’t work out when you find someone who’s experienced either.”

Hiring for foreign language positions presents a different set of issues. When introducing a new language, a teacher may only teach a few periods for the first few years in order to build up student interest. This means that the teacher, unless qualified to teach another course at the school, will have to work only part time.

Byrd feels students drive whether a school can support the foreign language course.

“We have got to always have a significant enough amount of kids who want to do something to hire a human being to do it,” Byrd said.

Even with established languages, it can be difficult to find a qualified teacher to fill the job. An example of this came when former German teacher Deidre Dahlberg retired. Even with fair student interest in the program, RHS made the decision not to continue teaching German.  

According to Basham, when a current language teacher leaves their position, it is essential for the district to find a replacement in the spring, when there are more potential applicants.

This holds true for other teaching positions as well.

“When we’re looking for teachers in mid-to-late summer, we have a more difficult time,” Basham said. “Most of the most qualified candidates have already landed positions.”

Byrd feels that, despite the various difficulties faced in hiring staff, RHS fairs well in the hiring process.

“We’ve been fortunate. When you consider how many teachers we hire and how many coaches we hire and how many positions we fill overall, we’ve been able to find good people,” Byrd said. “It doesn’t mean people are perfect, and it doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes get people and say that’s not a good fit and we’ve got to move on.”

In the case of Fischer, he is teaching the photography course as a committee on assignments, while working to get his credential. The credential will allow the course to receive CTE funding.

Byrd is confident in the program’s ability to succeed, and believes the nature of the school district makes hiring teachers, even in these situations, easier.

“I’d say maybe we got lucky but I don’t know that it’s all luck,” Byrd said. “I think that some schools in some districts in that position may have had to collapse the program… Part of the draw of Roseville Joint Union High School District is you do have people lined up out there when they see and opening.”