Education technician Natalie Brann helps a teacher arrange items in a classroom at Helen A. Thompson School in West Gardiner on the last day of class on June 16. After serving the school for 10 years, Brann plans to return next year while continuing to take classes toward certification as a teacher. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

After more than 50 people resigned from Maine School Administrative District 11 in what Superintendent Pat Hopkins called earlier this summer “not a normal year,” officials at the Gardiner-based district are scrambling to fill the vacant positions.

They’ve had success hiring teachers before the school year starts this coming week but are now left to find education technicians.   

Hopkins updated the board of directors during its Aug. 11 meeting, explaining that Martha Allen, the administrative assistant, has had to go through applications for 60 positions this summer. “That’s probably the most I’ve ever seen here,” Hopkins said.  

Most of the positions that are now empty belong to ed techs, whose workload is generally increasing while their pay is not. The growing number of resignations from these jobs has become a problem not just within the Gardiner school district but across the state.  

MSAD 11, which serves Gardiner, Pittston, West Gardiner and Randolph, is not the only district regionally that is experiencing vacant positions. The Lewiston Public Schools reported 70 vacancies across the district and the Waterville Public Schools had 38 positions open at the end of July.  

And just recently, on Monday, the Fairfield-based School Administrative District 49 held a job fair to try to attract job candidates. 


As of Aug. 11, Hopkins said MSAD 11 had 37 new hires over the summer, and 28 internal transfers with the numbers rising as quickly as daily, even hourly. The transfers were needed between buildings to cover classrooms in need of a teacher, or schools in need of an education technician.  

From the September 2021 board meeting through Aug. 4, there have been more than 55 resignations from people in positions ranging from principals and teachers to bus drivers and custodians.   

“We have had people apply for jobs at night and by morning, we reached out and they are already hired elsewhere,” she told the school board.  

Some of the top factors driving resignations from school positions are general burnout from working during the COVID-19 pandemic in an ever-changing school climate and the issue of pay after two years in the public education system that were unpredictable.  

A sign at Helen A. Thompson School in West Gardiner advertises the start of school on Wednesday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

By Tuesday of this past week, with school set to start on Aug. 31 for elementary and middle school and Sept. 1 for Gardiner Area High School, the only positions that remained open were for education technicians and special education. Officials say that if the positions are not filled, students who require additional help or services may not be able to receive them. 

The district school struggling the most with vacancies has been the Helen A. Thompson School in West Gardiner, which had at least 10 resignations this year. At the Aug. 4 board meeting, there were five teacher positions open. They have since been filled. 



The loss of education technicians in MSAD 11 has outpaced the statewide decline more than sevenfold over the last two years. Since 2020, the number of education technicians has dropped by 19.3%, compared to 2.6% across all districts in Maine, according to data from the Maine Department of Education.  

Kady Gould, principal at Helen A. Thompson School, said in June that ed techs are vital for students and classrooms, but they have seen their responsibilities expand, mainly because students have greater needs amid the pandemic.  

The Maine School Administrative District 11 pay scale for education technicians for the 2022 to 2023 school year. MSAD 11

Ed techs do everything from working one-on-one with students, to filling in as substitutes for teachers. They can work for one grade level, or sub in for all grade levels doing various tasks. Ed techs have filled in for bus drivers and transportation support for arrivals and dismissals, too.  

The number of ed techs needed is determined by the school district, according to the Maine Department of Education.   

“What I’ve heard is about the pay being offered, along with the increase in minimum wage where there are jobs that allow you to punch in and out and get the pay you need to be able to pay the bills and survive,” Gould said in June. “I feel like with ed tech positions, the wage was enticing, but now there is more of a competitive market now.”    


MSAD 11 Business Manager Andrea Disch said district pay is one of the “lowest in the area” for ed techs. She said, anecdotally, that for the first time schools must compete with stores like Dunkin’ for workers since formerly minimum-wage jobs are now offering competitive wages. 

The pay offered to an education technician is based on the type of position, on their years of experience and if they have a college degree.  

The pay across central Maine is similar among the schools, but where MSAD 11 in the 2021-22 school year started at an average of $13, Hallowell-based Regional School Unit 2 started at $15 per hour according to a job posting and the Augusta Public Schools started around $14 per hour. 

Former MSAD 11 education technician Emily Albert left her job because she simply could not afford to live anymore on her under-$13 an hour wage. She called leaving the position the “worst thing in the world” because of how much she loved her job and working with the students.  

“I loved the school I worked at and loved the principal,” Albert said. “If it wasn’t for the money and lack of support from the district, I would have stayed.”   

She now works for MaineGeneral Medical Center, where she makes $5 more an hour for an entry-level position. Albert said other education technicians likely left for the same reasons — they needed to make more money in order to keep up with the rising cost of living.  


Gould at Helen Thompson School said education technician positions are so vital that if they are not filled, students can miss out on the one-to-one time some students need.  

“The one-to-one support and extra support would be the direct impact, like they would have to prioritize students and the population of students we can support if we don’t have the manpower to support all of the needs,” Gould said.  

Gould said often, in the conversation of there being a lack of education technicians, it is forgotten how rewarding the job can be.  

“I feel like part of the story not being told is how in buildings, ed techs are so deeply valued and appreciated,” Gould said. “They offer so much to the team, to students and to colleagues, and we really need them to function to the entirety with students.” 


Department of Education spokesperson Marcus Mrowka said the department is aware of the educator shortages in areas, but it does not track position vacancies for school districts statewide.  


The department recently launched TeachMaine Plan to strengthen the workforce in response to the teacher pipeline shortage, which is not new to Maine. In fact, concern over the condition of Maine’s teacher workforce started in 1999. 

Data from this chart comes from June 2022.

The number of teachers in Maine has been on a steady decline since 2010 when DOE reported educator preparation programs in the state declined by 53%, creating the third largest decline in the country after Oklahoma and Michigan. In 2019, some 55% of experienced teachers “seriously considered leaving,” according to TeachMaine. 

Also a factor, teachers across the state have simply “aged out” and retired, as many districts in central Maine had several resignations this year. MSAD 11 had nearly 10 retirements. 

TeachMaine developed a plan to address the problem in 2019, before the pandemic, and came up with four themes to do so: incentivize recruitment efforts, increase diversity in the workforce, support educator development and growth, and elevate the profession.  

The state raised the minimum teacher pay to $40,000, beginning this fall, and has partnered with the University of Maine System to offer the 4+1 bachelor’s and master’s program. Some school districts, such as MSAD 11 and the Augusta Public Schools, pay up to a certain number of college credits per year for employees.  



It’s a similar story at other school districts in the area. In Fairfield, School Administrative District 49 recently held a job fair for a variety of open positions — a flier advertised 28 open positions for education technicians. Superintendent Roberta Hersom said that some of those roles have been filled, but many are still open. Some vacancies are not new from the summer, Hersom said, and others are created when an education technician becomes a teacher in the district. 

In the Skowhegan area, MSAD 54 Superintendent Jon Moody described similar openings for bus drivers, custodians and education technicians — all on a larger scale than in past years. 

“We’ve always had some shortfalls, but in every area, it is worse this year,” Moody said. 

In Augusta Public Schools, there were 18 resignations this school year. In the much smaller Readfield-area school district, RSU 38, there were 14 resignations.   

Similarly, most of the employees leaving the district were education technicians.  

Superintendent Jim Anastasio said it might seem like for Augusta Public Schools has an uptick in the number of ed tech and support staff positions because of the way it distributed its COVID-19 relief money.  The district put it toward grant-funded positions that did not exist in the past.


“Occasionally people leave from the money, occasionally it’s because of life events where they get married and want to be closer to home or have children to take care of,” Anastasio said. “I can’t compare it to much, but we don’t have a lot of people unhappy — we try to take care of our employees and pay them reasonably well and give them good benefits. People stay with us quite a while.” 

Administrators at Maine School Administrative District 11, which includes Helen A. Thompson School in West Gardiner, have struggled to fill needed staff positions for the upcoming school year. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Hopkins said MSAD 11 was similarly able to use relief funding to hire additional staff ranging from teaching positions to social workers, and even some ed techs.  

She said that several people who took positions with the federal relief funds ended up taking full-time positions. As a result, their former jobs are open and proving hard to fill.

“Some of the vacancies are retirements, some are stressed and tired from the last two years and need a fresh start in a different district, some have found jobs closer to home in order to spend less time traveling and more time with family,” Hopkins said. “Turn over always presents its challenges, but we are really excited with the energy and breadth the new staff will bring.”   

Staff Writer Kaitlyn Budion contributed to this report.   

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