Teacher fair gears up for big showing

NASHUA – The sagging economy is expected to lead to a high turnout at this week’s teacher job fair.

“There are a lot of people looking for a job and looking to change careers,” said Dana O’Gara, director of human resources for the Nashua School District.

The job fair is being held Tuesday at Nashua High School North from 4- 7:30 p.m.

One of the notorious problems for public schools has been people with degrees in areas like math and engineering having no financial incentive to be a teacher because they could make more money in the private sector.

This year’s job fair is being held at a time when the country is experiencing the worst unemployment in more than 25 years.

O’Gara said that likely means people who were in those higher-paying fields are now looking for work. The district already saw a spike in attendance at a job fair for substitute teachers held earlier in the school year, she said.

More than 100 people showed up, which is much higher than usual, she said. As a result, the district was able to add more people to its pool of substitutes, she said.

“We had a lot of people at that job fair who were anticipating being laid off from a job in private industry,” she said.

The most recent unemployment numbers released last week showed that 651,000 jobs were lost in the United States in February, raising the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent.

O’Gara said it’s difficult to tell now what positions the district will be looking to fill so early in the year, but there are typically around 100 teaching vacancies that the district has to fill on an annual basis.

One of the uncertainties this year is whether there will be as many retirements as in previous years.

This is the last year for state employees to retire and get medical subsidies, but O’Gara said teachers might also be hesitant to retire because of the uncertain economic times.

Those looking to become teachers almost always need to have a bachelor’s degree or higher, O’Gara said, adding that there are some exceptions in some of the vocational areas.

New Hampshire has an alternative certification programs that allow for people with bachelor’s degree or higher to pursue education as a second career.

People can attain their certification as they are working in a school and being mentored, but must first apply to the state to be considered for eligibility.

Those with experience in designated areas of critical shortage, such as physics, chemistry and math, are considered for eligibility, as are those with experience in a certain field and a college degree in that area, such as English or history.

O’Gara said there would be representatives from the state Department of Education’s bureau of credentialing to speak with potential applicants about how they could attain certification.

Attendance at the job fair has dropped off over the past two years, but O’Gara attributed that to the teachers contract situation.

At the past two job fairs, teachers picketed outside of the building, holding signs and chanting as potential applicants walked by. Teachers were working without a new contract since 2006. Teachers got a new contract in the spring of last year.

In 2006, there were 488 people who came to the job fair. In the two years when teachers picketed outside, there were only 267 and 251 people, respectively.