WATERVILLE — Public schools in the city are facing what could be a staffing crisis if key teaching and support positions are not filled before the new school year begins, according to Peter Hallen, the district’s new assistant superintendent.

There are 38 open positions, although that number is not exact because interviews are being conducted, some appointments are awaiting Board of Education approval and staff members might leave the district.

“It’s safe to say though that we have immediate concerns about vacant positions,” Hallen said. “Each one is a potential opportunity lost for a student or requires another person, who likely already has a full plate, to take on additional responsibilities.”

The district has 373 employees.

At Waterville Senior High School, Principal Brian Laramee said he has seven openings, for an English teacher, a physical education teacher, a special education teacher, two educational technicians, a social worker and a business/computer teacher.

Of the 38 openings across Waterville Public Schools, 24 are for positions that would be on a teacher’s contract, such as teacher, social worker, Mid-Maine Technical School instructor and adult education instructor.


Seven full- and part-time ed techs are needed, as are an administrative assistant; a director of Mid-Maine Technical Center, to succeed Hallen, who was recently named assistant superintendent; an assistant special education director; a facilities-maintenance director; and three coaches.

Waterville Junior High School Principal Don Roux said Thursday he was able to fill all but one of several open positions, but he attributes some of that to luck. He said he was able to hire a civil engineer who has a teaching degree for a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) position.

The application pool is shallow and the STEAM teacher “just literally fell into my lap,” Roux said, adding only one person has applied for the position teaching computer science.

“Hardly anybody is applying for education right now,” Roux said. “People just aren’t going into it. Compared to the rest of the district, I lucked out, for sure.”

Roux said one person he hired has decided to take a job at a school district closer to home because gas prices are so high.

“Right now, teachers can pick and choose where they want to go,” he said. “Districts are competing with each other now, and they’re recruiting from each other.”


Roux, who has worked in education for 28 years, said that 10 or 20 years ago, he would get 30 or 40 applications for one English language arts position.

“Now, I’d be lucky if I had two or three,” he said, “and I’d be ecstatic with two or three.”

Waterville is hardly alone in experiencing a teacher shortage, which is occurring nationally.

Hallen said that in 1975, about one in four college students nationwide was majoring in education, the most of any academic major.

“As of 2015, it was one in 10, and that number continues to decline,” he said. “Maine public colleges awarded 4,500 degrees in 2022, and 737 were in education —16%.”

Hallen said he is optimistic about Waterville schools for several reasons. A new contract was recently settled that increased salaries, bringing them in line with those of neighboring school districts and others across Maine. The Waterville Board of Education, City Council and many members of the community were vocal in supporting the pay increases, he said.


Having had to maneuver through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, schools are more knowledgeable about how to address stress and anxiety among staff members, bus drivers, students and families, Hallen said.

The Maine Department of Education has also developed new certification options that allow people to have a career “do-over,” he said.

“They might not have ever considered being a teacher, but now, after having some life experiences or a change in aspirations, maybe a really rewarding job on a school schedule, being a role model and inspiring kids is something they want to try,” Hallen said.

To qualify to become a teacher, candidates must hold a four year post-secondary degree or equivalent in work or academic experience, be enrolled in an approved teacher preparation program or hold equivalent credentials from another state or country.

“Waterville Public Schools is primed for great things,” Hallen said. “We are one of the few central Maine communities whose population has grown each of the last five years, and with the continued development of the city and resources, we can expect that to continue.

“The school and city leadership have demonstrated a commitment to supporting school academic and extracurricular programming and services. Now we just need to find some creative, caring people in our community that can join a great team of people in inspiring and being role models for our children.”

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