The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City schools work hire for shortage of paraprofessionals

After the COVID-19 pandemic caused some educators to leave, local schools are working to fill vacant positions.
Grace Kreber
The Iowa City Community School District sign in Iowa City is seen on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022.

Despite an increase in hired educators, Iowa City schools continue to experience the effects of shortages among paraprofessionals.

Iowa City Community School District saw a little over 100 employees retire from the district in May, including teachers and paraprofessionals, said Nick Proud, the chief human resources officer for Iowa City Schools.

According to a survey last year, 53 percent of U.S. schools surveyed reported moderate to considerable shortages of special educators.

Over the last few years, school districts in Johnson County and nationwide have seen droves of teachers retire or leave in large numbers. Iowa City schools have seen an uptick in teachers taking a leave of absence, and ultimately chose not to return to the district, since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

In both Iowa City schools and the Solon Community School District, there has been a significant shortage of paraprofessionals that the two districts are struggling to fill.

Paraprofessionals, a certified educator who works with students in a classroom, have very specific areas of expertise and are often more difficult to hire.

Proud said because paraprofessionals are paid by the hour, it is often easier for them to find a job in the private sector, making it more difficult for schools to hire and retain employees in the position.

Solon schools are experiencing a similar problem. Superintendent Davis Eidahl said the district went most of the last school year without paraprofessionals working with students. This year, however, the district filled all vacancies with the help of Solon High School graduates who have chosen to stay close to home.

“We’ve been fortunate to utilize former students to fill these positions, and feel good about having all these vacancies filled,” Eidahl said.

During the 2022-23 school year, Solon saw 12 teachers retire or leave out of a total of 114. All 12 vacancies were filled by the start of this school year.

RELATED: Iowa City Schools report larger class sizes with fewer classroom teachers

“We definitely did feel the effects of the weight of COVID-19, and we feel we are just now getting that stride and energy back within that hiring and retention of teachers,” Eidahl said.

Ruthina Malone, president of the Iowa City School Board, said despite this heavy loss of employees to retirement and shortage of paraprofessionals, there has been a steady increase in teacher recruitment in the district.

“Education has taken a hit in general,” Malone said.

However, Proud said that Iowa City’s success in hiring educators is hardly the case for many smaller school districts across the state.

“Many smaller schools are really struggling to get high-quality individuals who have the credentials or the training for the education and expertise that you want to see in the classroom,” Proud said. “And that impacts kids.”

Malone said Iowa City schools saw more teaching positions being filed in the district in recent months. Iowa City schools haven’t had hiring issues with classroom teachers and were fully staffed on Aug. 10 for new teacher orientation, Malone said.

Malone said as employers, Iowa City schools have done a really good job of not only retaining but attracting teachers to the district.

“We have seen this for a number of reasons because of the amount of salary that’s offered, or the relationship that we have with the various unions within our district,” Malone said.

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About the Contributor
Shreya Reddy, News Reporter
Shreya Reddy is a freshman at the University of Iowa. Coming from a small town in Kansas, Shreya is double majoring in English and Political Science on the Pre-Law track. Before coming to the Daily Iowan, she has written for her neighborhood magazine and her schools literary magazine as well as writing an investigative journalism piece.