More than 100 candidates came to Martinez Friday in the hopes of landing a teaching position with the Columbia County school system.
In these times of slashed budgets and increased class sizes, though, many left the teacher screening knowing that their job hunt must continue.
“It’s tough on these applicants,” said school system Assistant Director of Human Resources Jerilyn Northcutt. “I feel bad for these college graduates excited to go out and get their first job, and there’s none out there.”
Each year, Columbia County conducts a mass teacher screening with applicants each meeting with at least three principals for prospective jobs.
On Friday, 120 applicants met with principals. Last year, and the year before, school officials interviewed 132 applicants, but hired just 88 in 2011 and 110 in 2010.
Once, the fast-growing system held two mass teacher screenings each year to help fill open positions. But that hasn’t happened since 2008, Northcutt said.
Though the pupil population in Columbia County has grown by 22 percent since 2002, the system has lost more than $73.5 million in state funding. Officials expect to lose another $10 million next school year.
In addition to numerous other cost-cutting measures to make up for the lost funding, the school board raised class sizes at least twice in recent years. Raised class sizes lessens a need for teachers and cuts payroll expenses.
Northcutt said most Georgia school systems have done likewise.
Elizabeth Hemphill, a 22-year-old graduate of Georgia Southern University, knows firsthand the difficulties facing new teachers.
“After I got my undergraduate degree, I saw friends, certified teachers, taking jobs as part-time (pre-kindergarten) teachers just to get work,” Hemphill said. “That’s why I decided to stay in school longer to get my masters.”