HPSD starts year with 80 new employees, only 7 vacancies

By DAVID TISDALE,

Last year, Hattiesburg Public School District (HPSD) was staring at multiple vacancies, including for classroom teachers, as the start of classes neared.

The story is different this year. With the 2017-18 school year beginning Aug. 4, the district had only seven vacancies – three of them teacher positions – as of Aug. 1, Assistant Superintendent Michael Battle said at the district’s August Board of Trustees regular meeting. To date, the vacancies include one counselor, two tutors and an intervention specialist. There are 80 new employees in the district. 

“Our principals have done a great job of helping us recruit new teachers,” Battle said, noting that efforts to find new teachers through job fairs, advertising in other states and communicating with teacher education programs at various universities also yielded results.

Superintendent Robert Williams said the district is engaging SUBTEACH USA to assist in finding substitute teachers, where needed, for schools in the district. Williams said using SUBTEACH USA allows the district to focus on its search for certified teachers. The agency is also used by the Forrest and Lamar County school districts, Williams said.

Registration is ongoing leading up to the first day of school, and Superintendent Williams said an exact enrollment number would not be available until approximately Labor Day. Last year, HPSD enrollment was 4,289, according to the Mississippi Department of Education’s website.

New Lillie Burney STEAM Academy principal Tangela Rayborn said she’s excited about the opportunity to work with the school’s teachers to move Lillie Burney to the next level. Lillie Burney received an ‘F’ rating by the Mississippi Department of Education two years ago; recent test scores for the school are currently embargoed, she said. Despite the challenges the school has faced in the recent past, Rayborn said her teachers are committed to excellence. “We won’t be happy until we’re above a ‘C’ rating,” she said.

*The newest member of the Hattiesburg Board of Trustees, Delores McNair, attended her first work session and regular board meeting Aug. 1. McNair, who is both an alumna of the school district and who has children who are graduates of Hattiesburg schools, said she’s looking forward to her five-year term on the board.

“It’s a new perspective now from that of a parent of a student,” McNair said. “I’m looking forward to learning all I can about the district’s operations, and visiting each schools to learn about both the challenges and the successes. I love our district and thrilled to have this opportunity to help move it forward.”

The next board of trustees meeting will be held Sept. 5.