Mt. Diablo Unified School District scrambling to fill shortage of special education teachers

Grace Cannon says she's looking forward to starting in-person learning next month at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek.

"I miss seeing my friends," she said Thursday.

Grace has special needs. And there is a concern in the Mt. Diablo school district these days about a significant shortage of special education assistance to help students like grace in the classroom.

"Breaking things down for her and repeat them for her. And just be there to support her through the day so she can get the most out of her school experience," said Grace's mother Traci Cannon.

The head of Mt. Diablo school district human resources, John Rubio, says he is looking to fill 112 special education assistant openings which is about a fifth of the total number of assistants.

"We are ready to hire and we are looking for a lot of people," Rubio said.

The district is sweetening the pot. It is offering a $1,500 bonus to those who get hired, $500 upfront. The job pays up to $21 an hour.

"And we are even exploring a possible retention bonus to keep them here another year... We are optimistic these types of incentives will help us," he said.

The district says the pandemic, which gave birth to distance learning,  is largely to blame for the shortage, not just in special education but across the board, from school psychologists to custodians.

"We had to pause our hiring last fall because we didn't need as many people last year. We were able to have our paraprofessionals and special assistants work from home," Rubio said.
Other districts are also hiring. 

San Francisco has about 70 openings for teachers. Oakland has about 50 slots.

"It is getting pretty competitive for all the school districts," Rubio said.

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