Beaufort Co. has two workdays to hire three principals, three weeks to find 15 teachers

As classes approach, Beaufort Co. schools have less than a week to get principals for three schools approved by the Board of Education ahead of the semester’s Aug. 19 start.

There are three principal vacancies in the district: at Hilton Head Island High School, Beaufort Middle School and Shanklin Elementary School. To be hired, principal candidates must be recommended by the superintendent and approved by the school board.

The only board meeting between now and the start of school is Aug. 6, meaning the district has two workdays left to assemble the recommendations.

District spokesman Jim Foster said the district is still conducting interviews for the positions, and that new superintendent Frank Rodriguez’s goal is to have all three principal positions filled by Aug. 19. Foster could not list finalists for the three principal positions on Thursday afternoon.

But the principal’s office isn’t the only empty room in Beaufort County schools as it stands. According to district elementary talent acquisition officer Jill McAden, the district had 15 classroom teacher vacancies as of Friday afternoon: six at elementary schools, three at middle schools, two at high schools and four in special education classes.

However, McAden said this number changes daily. On Wednesday, she made eight hires and accepted five resignations; on Thursday afternoon, the number of classrooms without teachers stood at 25.

Classroom vacancies don’t account for all the teacher vacancies in the district — the district’s website shows 50 vacancies in certified teacher positions, which can include tutors, literacy and numeracy coaches and extracurricular teachers for chorus, art and drama, along with core classroom instructors.

The number of classroom vacancies is higher this year than it has been in the recent past: district human resources director Alice Walton said that last year, the district had around 10 classroom vacancies at the beginning of the school year, and the year before that there were none.

“Our biggest full-on press is for classroom teachers,” McAden said.

The three open principal positions are also unusual this close to the start of school, Foster said.

All three principal vacancies were prompted by summer decisions: Amanda O’Nan’s controversial resignation from Hilton Head High School after an investigation into an alleged affair, Carole Ingram’s retirement from Beaufort Middle School after 15 years as principal and Celestine LaVan’s move from Shanklin Elementary principal to director of elementary education in Darlington County School District in June.

O’Nan’s resignation prompted the district’s first-ever use of an outside firm to hire for a principal position, which cost the district $20,000 in fees and advertising.

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Rachel Jones covers education for the Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has worked for the Daily Tar Heel and Charlotte Observer. Rachel grew up in Ayden, NC, surrounded by teachers.