Berkeley County Schools face staffing challenges

By Hans Fogle
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Board of Education is looking for qualified teachers, and they are having a bit of trouble this year.

The board has advertised 252 teaching positions since April, but only 112 new hires have been made.

Superintendent of Berkeley County Schools Manny Arvon said on Metronews Talkline Tuesday the issue comes up every year, but seems to be a greater challenge this year.

“In our location it’s that great area of competition where we’re competing with Maryland and Virginia Counties,” Arvon said. “It becomes a salary issue.”

In nearby Loudon County, Va. the starting salary for new teachers is $50,000 per year.

Berkeley County teachers start at just over $35,000 and need 21 years of experience before reaching that $50,000 mark.

Arvon said outreach is not the problem.

Berkeley County held 15 different recruiting events in six states in 2015 alone.

“We do a great job bringing kids in,” Arvon said. “The issue is retaining them.”

They are able to offer some incentives to teachers pending certain certifications.

“We get a $1,000 orientation for new teachers; we have a housing allowance of another $1,000, we have a sick leave bonus of $1,200.”

Arvon said all of that is made possible thanks to the excess school levy.

Berkeley County is still growing as well, having picked up more than 700 students over the last two years.

And, Arvon said, it’s the most diverse population in the state.

“We have 27 different languages spoken within the district,” he said.

Right now roughly 1,400 teachers are employed in Berkeley County Schools, but they have hired more than 2,500 teachers over the last 15 years.

As of last week, the school system reported 74 teaching vacancies left to fill.