Rural school district feeling brunt of teacher shortage

Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 6:46 PM CDT
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CHILOWEE, Mo. (KCTV) - As the school year is underway for many districts across the metro now, the conversation surrounding teacher shortages remains a serious issue.

It’s impacted school districts of all sizes in all areas, but especially small-town communities like Chilhowee, Missouri.

It’s where Joe Murphy grew up going to school. Years later, he felt called to come back.

“To be near the farm family and friends and be a teacher and coach here, it was one of those God moments where it just hit me there was no question about it,” says Murphy.

Now, he’s getting ready to begin his fourth school year as the superintendent. In this school, preschool through 12th grade is taught by a small group of only 20 total teachers. Murphy says they’ve really felt the impact of the teacher shortage over the last couple years. Recruitment is especially difficult in a town this size.

“Each spring, I have a teacher ask where can I rent a house or where’s the store and we do we have a store and some good stuff going on here but that does pose a challenge for us,” says Murphy.

A teacher retention and recruitment grant has kept them afloat. Even still, he said a deeper level of action will need to be taken.

“I do fear it’ll be tough to hire teachers. Then districts and school boards will face that decision to consolidate,” said Murphy.

He says measures such as legislation that provides an incentive for retired teachers to return, a 4-day school week they’ve adapted, and the family feel of his small district have all helped, but he believes simply changing the narrative around this profession is what could lead to a lasting difference.

“It’s a good feeling to know what I’m doing changes lives, even if it’s just one life it feels good. It’s a great profession and we have to share that more,” Murphy said.