GREAT FALLS — They say desperate times call for desperate measures, and that’s where Great Falls Public Schools is right now, as some of their staff describe it as a very desperate time with staff shortages in almost every department within the school district.
Rae Funston works as lead food service for Riverview Elementary School and usually works with at least three people in the kitchen. They only have two right now.
“We are desperate for people. It’s in every department, doing it, but it’s exhausting if one of us gets sick or whatever. We need people, terrible. It’s very frustrating. You wonder where everybody is. It’s a good place to work. I love Riverview, being around the kids, and they’re trying hard. They’re pulling out all the stops as far as I’m concerned,” Funston said.
GFPS is experiencing staff shortages at almost every level. They’re getting more creative with bringing more employees to Great Falls as the shortages are proving to be detrimental to the district.
There have already been changes in recent weeks, with substitute teachers getting increased pay, but GFPS wants to come up with more ideas to increase staffing. They are hosting a job fair and are offering on the spot interviews to help find staff faster.
Sandra Pepos is a full-time substitute teacher and agrees the added pay helps but it is still a challenge to find people some days.
“As a secondary sub we have to fill in. This is the worst it’s been since I’ve been here, and the district is very good to you,” Pepos said. They provide you all the trainings you need and what you need to do your job, but I think there’s different factors that play into it. With the job fair, I’m hoping we can pick up some steam and pick up some more subs for every need that’s out there in the district. You can sign up to be in one classroom, but you may be in another classroom your prep periods and there’s been times I’ve been three different people in one day. It’s all hands on deck.”
Along with the job fair, they are attracting potential employees with more than interviews. They are inviting college seniors studying education to stay in Great Falls for a weekend and learn more about the district while getting the opportunity to explore around the city with hiking and snowshoeing.
GFPS human resources director Kerry Dattilo says the district is making it work but there are needs that have to be addressed.
“It’s definitely a difficult time for staffing. We’re seeing a lot more absenteeism than we ever have. We’re having a lot of people going down and getting sick and with that we need to have extra help to be able to get through the day and keep these kids in school,” Dattilo said. “We’re looking for all sorts of different employees at the job fair. Substitute teachers, food service workers, paraprofessionals, teachers aids. That has been successful for us this year in getting some great employees on board. We have just some awesome employees who are flexible every day. They’re with us here as partners working to make this work for all the students.”
The Job fair will be January 28th at the GFPD district office located at 1100 4th Street South from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The weekend of hosting college seniors is set for February 11th through the 13th.