Milford schools hire 55 new teachers, but less interns cause for concern

Milford Public Schools.

Milford Public Schools.

Contributed photo/Contributed Photo

MILFORD — Finding teachers has not been a problem for Milford schools, according to Human Resources Director Wendy Kopazna, but the lack of intern interest is raising concerns.

Milford Public Schools hired 55 new teachers, about the average number of hires, said Kopazna, but the number of interns the district received this year is fewer than last year.

"Seventy-four is the most we've hired, and 47 is the lowest," she said of teachers. "The 55 teachers represent 18 distinct certification areas, and they come from 18 different towns/cities in Connecticut, and 19 of the 55 are Milford residents."

The number of new interns is much lower, but this year more than usual, she added.

"We only had 13 interns this year, compared to 22 last year," she added. "This is indicative of individuals not going into the teaching field, which is of concern."

Kopazna, at the Board of Education's Dec. 12, offered the district's annual human recourses report covering Nov. 1, 2021, through Oct. 21, 2022, in which she stated that Milford schools started to hire building substitutes to complement their intern process.

"They serve somewhat of the same purpose, but it doesn't help us in the future hiring of teachers because our building subs are typically not in the teaching field, where interns could become employees," Kopazna said.

"We currently employ 18 building subs, and last year we had 29," she added. "Part of that is intentional, last year, due to COVID, we allowed our schools to have a few more, but even if we wanted to increase that back up to 29, right now, we would have a hard time doing it."

Another challenge for the district, according to Kopazna, is a shortage of per diem substitutes, which she says makes it difficult to cover daily absences.

"Especially in the winter weather, and then you add the flu and COVID, and it can become difficult," she said. "Pre-COVID, we would carry about 145 substitute teachers in the system, and right now, we have 105 in the system. That is even after our job fairs and bringing on a bunch of new substitutes in the last few months."

The district processed fewer applications this year, 2,770 compared to 4,254 and 3,126 in years prior, but Kopazna said they hired 314 new employees.

"I'm not sure why, but there were fewer applications for the 295 jobs we posted," she said. "But we processed 314 new employees, more than the previous two years (254 and 170). So even though we had fewer applicants, we had more hires, some of that could be turnover, hiring subs, and then they leave or hiring teachers, and then they leave."

In Milford schools, every applicant needs to be vaccinated for COVID-19, and school board member Andrew Folwer asked if that had impacted the hiring process.

"As far as impact, we have not seen that much of an impact, but it's hard to tell because if people are not hiring because of that, we wouldn't know that," said Kopazna. "We had maybe one or two people where we wanted them and made offers to them, but they were not vaccinated. But, on the other hand, we've also had people say they've been thinking about getting vaccinated and want to work for us, so they get vaccinated. So we've had it throughout the spectrum."

Kopazna said they hope to discontinue that practice next August based on everything they know about the virus.