Special to The Mississippi Link,
The Holmes County Consolidated School District (HCCSD) recently launched a bold and aggressive WILL YOU BE MY TEACHER? campaign.
During its first press conference, Friday, Jan. 18, Superintendent of Schools, James L. Henderson, Ed.D. rolled out the logistics of the campaign to recruit nearly 100 teachers for the 2019-2020 school year. “We are not just looking for warm bodies; we are seeking highly qualified and certified teachers for our children of Holmes County,” said Henderson. “We are seeking the best, brightest and most collaborative teachers.”
The campaign consists of billboard advertising in seven counties and seven cities, radio public service announcements, newspaper ads, postings on all major social media platforms, and a recruitment video. “And, of course, as always, word of mouth,” said Henderson. “We need everyone to help us get the word out. Someone may have a highly qualified educator in their family who wants to return home to make a positive difference in our children’s lives. We want that educator!”
According to the Mississippi Department of Education there are more than 2000 teacher vacancies statewide. Only approximately 515 education majors are projected to graduate this spring. HCCSD has 58 vacancies filled with non-certified teachers and 30 teachers with one-year non-renewable contracts. According to Henderson, that is almost half of the district’s 202 teachers. These 88 expected vacancies do not take into consideration retirements and other attritional actions.
The “aggressive” teacher recruitment efforts offer competitive salaries and other incentives. The starting teacher salary in Holmes County is $35,690, which is higher than some areas around the state. Henderson stated that he will propose the Board of Education reimburse the cost of Praxis exams (a Mississippi requirement) to teachers who pass and commit to a three-year contract with the district.
HCCSD Board Member April Jones attended the news conference. “I think it is vital for our community to gain additional highly qualified teachers in order for us to move beyond the F rating,” Jones said. She pointed out that this need is extremely important to the students, parents, and community. “We cannot sit down on this. Great things come out of Holmes County. I am a product of Holmes County and I speak highly of it everywhere I go,” she stressed.
Jones emphasized that the district wants “the eager and committed teachers” who will stay. “We don’t want to be just the first step for teachers. We want them to come in, fall in love with our students, and fall in love with our community. It is great to be here. I moved back to Mississippi. I moved back to Holmes County, so I can speak highly of this area and of the students.”
Superintendent Henderson concurs with Jones. He, too, is a proud product of Holmes County. “Yes, Holmes is home. That is why I can stand before you today as the Superintendent of Schools. I attribute my success to the unwavering dedication and commitment of teachers in Holmes County. I draw on their lessons every day; they remain at the core of my personal and professional identity.”
One of those teachers is retired instructor Doretha Draine Wiley who also attended the press conference. Wiley had such an impact on the students that the district recently named a newly established fine arts academy in her honor: The Doretha Draine Wiley Fine Arts Academy.
Henderson says Wiley is one of many icons who represented teaching as the noble profession that it is. “As a former teacher of English and Speech Communication, I realized that teaching took me into the community to work for children and families. I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to thank the 202 classroom educators who are currently serving our students in Holmes County.”
He told the media and audience that “This is a pivotal moment for our district!” The Will You Be My Teacher? campaign also includes a rigorous schedule of college and university visits and district career fairs throughout the spring.
(Please see the chart below for anticipated vacancies). For more information about the teacher recruitment career fairs, visit Holmesccsd.org or call (662) 834-2175.
It’s THAT Time in Holmes County!
43 Elementary English, Math, Science and Social Studies G1-8
16 High School English, Math, History, Science, Foreign Language
14 Special Education
3 Physical Education
3 Fine Arts
HCCSD also expects a number of openings due to teacher retirements and resignations.