In 2012, St. Joseph-Ogden High School listed an opening for one PE teacher. More than 150 eligible candidates applied for the job.
Three years later, the district that’s home to fewer than 500 students went looking for another gym teacher. The pool this time? Eighteen.
“This is a significant drop in the span of three years,” said longtime SJ-O principal-turned-superintendent Brian Brooks.
“The stories I am hearing from other school districts within the past year in regards to the lack of applicants is extremely concerning for all schools moving forward and most importantly, very concerning for the students in those schools.”
The story is a familiar one across East Central Illinois:
— Five years ago, the only teaching opening in the K-8 Prairieview-Ogden district attracted 60 applicants. Last year, only a “handful” of people applied for a classroom teaching job, PV-O Superintendent Vic White said.
— Last summer, few qualified candidates went after a high school Spanish teacher opening at Heritage, forcing Superintendent Tom Davis to get “aggressive” and eventually recruit a nonapplicant to come to Broadlands.
— Two people applied for a recent industrial technology teaching opening in Arthur.
— And a special education position with Rantoul City Schools stayed open throughout the first semester of this past school year before Superintendent Michelle Ramage filled it in January with a midyear graduate.
The rest of the state is suffering, too.