Hiring French teachers challenges Catholic board

Hiring qualified French Immersion teachers is proving a challenge for the Northwest Catholic District School Board, with trustees trying to come up with solutions for fear of compromising their French program.
“It is a problem for us, and for every other board in Ontario, to find French Immersion teachers,” Education Director John Madigan told the board at its regular monthly meeting Saturday morning at Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton.
The board spent most of the summer trying to fill three positions for French Immersion teachers.
“We spent over $4,000 in advertising for French Immersion teachers this summer and our success has been limited,” Madigan noted.
But the local board only received a handful of responses from its extensive advertising campaign, which included postings on education job Web sites and ads in numerous national and local papers.
The board was unable to fill the positions, and is using unqualified long-term occasional teachers to staff the program.
Al Cesiunnas, assistant to the director of education, said he spoke with all the applicants to find out why they went elsewhere and called other boards to see how they handled the staffing shortage.
“This is just not a problem in Fort Frances, it is a problem all over,” he said. “I spoke to the lady who runs Lakehead University and she said the numbers [of students taking French and education degrees] are just minimal.”
“I was discussing this with the Fort Frances High School principal and the difficulty they’re having is having to plan for the long-term and being able to offer the French Immersion certificate,” Madigan noted.
Currently, students taking the French Immersion program can continue on at Fort Frances High School and receive their certificate if they have completed 10 credits in French when they graduate.
“They apparently have three teachers that presently offer the credits,” Madigan said.
“What about tracking the students that come from our schools who are going to teacher’s college,” asked trustee Anne Marie Fitzgerald.
“We could offer them something to promote the fact that if they are qualified to teach French Immersion they would have a job here,” she added.
“What if the town or a group sponsored that person and paid maybe a year tuition or something in return for a contract to come back to school here and teach for two or three years,” suggested Cesiunnas.
While the board came up with a number of possible suggestions, it didn’t expect to reach a solution anytime soon.
“This is a problem I expect that we will have to return to year after year,” board chair Wade Petranik said.