Columbia County reviews more than 100 teaching candidates

More than a hundred candidates went to Martinez on Friday in hopes of landing a teaching position with the Columbia County school system.

In these times of slashed budgets and increased class sizes, many left the teacher screening with the knowledge that their job hunt must continue.

“It’s tough on these applicants,” said Jerilyn Northcutt, the schools’ assistant director of Human Resources. “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 meeting with at least three principals each 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 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 $10 million more next school year.

To make up for lost funding, the school board increased class sizes at least twice in recent years, lessening the need for teachers and cutting 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,” she said. “That’s why I decided to stay in school longer to get my master’s.”

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