Jones County was represented at the recent Middle Georgia RESA Job Fair held Jan. 31 at Westside High School in Macon where over 600 prospective teachers attended.
Systems represented at the RESA Fair were Bibb, Crawford, Peach, Monroe, Twiggs, Jones, and Houston counties. A surprising number of applications were distributed to teachers coming from out of state in search of employment for the upcoming school year and to ‘second career’ job seekers.
“It was a telling indicator of the elevated number of people out of work and desperate to secure stable employment,” noted a member of the Jones County personnel office who was present at the fair. “The market is extremely competitive with counties having limited job offerings as a result of continued budget cuts.”
This past Saturday the school system held its annual Jones County Job Fair, hosted this year by Gray Station Middle School. Interview teams from each school decked out in school attire manned tables that depicted the mission and culture of their particular setting. Candidates were able to meet with school administrators and were interviewed by key faculty members who collected resumes and applications for future reference.
Approximately 100 applicants attended the Jones County Job Fair in hopes of acquiring a job for the 2009-10 school year.
One applicant said, “I’ve worked recently in a private school in [a surrounding county]. It looks as if it won’t be able to open next year, and I have to work. I’m actively attending all the job fairs in hopes of getting back in the public schools.”
Also reflective of the current economic market were the comments of another possible candidate. “I retired not long ago. My retirement income has taken a hard hit, and I find myself in the situation of needing to go back to work. I’m eager to get a job in a good school system.”
Many of those in attendance Saturday are in the process of completing their degree work and will soon be fully certified for hire. Schools have hosted a large number of student teachers who have trained under the skilled eyes of veteran teachers in the district.
“I’ve loved working here in Jones County. It’s a wonderful community with an outstanding school system. My parents are as eager as I am for me to get a job in this system. I’m worried, though, that with so many people interested and applying that it may not be easy to get hired,” expressed a concerned student teacher.
At the Oct. 21, 2008, JCBOE meeting, the Reduction in Force Policy (RIF) was discussed to prepare members should it become necessary to make layoffs due to additional financial cuts from the state. Superintendent Jim LeBrun has held firm in his commitment to do everything possible not to put anyone out of work.
He has stated previously, “we’re looking at this from all angles to do everything possible to shave expenses so that no one loses their job.” Teachers were asked to submit a “Letter of Intent” during the month of January in an effort to pinpoint possible vacancies created through attrition. Positions held by teachers who had plans to retire or move out of the system were absorbed through class size increases established by state mandates or simply eliminated in some cases.
Personnel Director Dr. Mike Newton noted that the job market would indeed be tight this year. Last year, Newton reported, more than 60 percent of new hires in Jones County were job fair participants. Previously, job fair candidates could be offered contracts ‘on the spot’. This ensured that the most qualified candidates were secured and taken out of the job market. This was not the case at Saturday’s fair.
The practice of issuing teaching contracts in late January or early February will be delayed this year. “We’re holding off on contracts until the legislative session ends and we have a better understanding of the upcoming budget and its impact,” reported the superintendent at a recent administrators’ meeting.
When asked why the county would host a job fair in such uncertain times, Newton responded, “There will be a few select teaching positions that cannot be absorbed via attrition. Therefore, we now have a larger pool of highly qualified candidates to choose from should the need arise.”
Administrators who were asked agreed that there is a need for having a pool of skilled applicants from which to choose should job opportunities open. Said one school administrator, “I want the chance to have the best possible teachers out there on my staff. This gives us the opportunity to see who’s available.”
Board Chairman Ted Stone commented on the energy demonstrated by the schools in preparation for the fair.
“They always give 100 percent,” he said. “I’m proud of the work they put into making this a success.”