Finding a new way to teach

New faces will line the halls of Steamboat Springs schools

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— Steamboat Springs High School Principal Dave Schmid spent his summer vacation hiring 15 new teachers for the upcoming school year.

Districtwide, 23 new teachers were hired and more than two-thirds of the positions were offered because of teacher retirees.

Hiring new teachers "was pretty hard really," Schmid said. "I started at the end of April and finished two weeks ago."

The high school has hired close to a third of its teaching staff this year and last.

In addition to retirement, teachers have left for personal reasons or switched positions in the district, Schmid said.

He said he hopes the number of teachers he has to hire in future years declines.

Elisabeth Simeri, the high school's new art teacher, said she has lived in Steamboat for 10 years, waiting for a position to be offered.

"Everything I've been working at has come around," she said.

Simeri said her desire to stay in Steamboat has developed her tenacity to make ends meet.

She said finding a meaningful job as a teacher in Steamboat makes staying in the area worthwhile.

"If I wouldn't have come up with a job, I was about ready to go," she said.

Most teachers, unlike Simeri, are moving to Steamboat for the first time.

Tim Bishop, principal at the middle school, said all of his new teachers really wanted to make the move to Steamboat.

All of the teaching positions at the middle school opened up after seven teachers retired.

Bishop said he started hiring teachers as early as April to ensure he could find the very best.

"We were very, very aggressive on this," Bishop said. "This is the most excited I've been about new hires because we had so many to choose from."

Bishop said he and staff members went to several recruiting affairs to hire teachers before they had accepted jobs with other districts.

He said teachers are looking for more than a good salary when considering a teaching job.

"When you say good things about kids and parents, they want to come here," he said.

Bishop said some of the teachers he hired were receiving letters from other school districts interested in their employment later this summer.

Bishop said the number of teachers who retired at the middle school came as no surprise.

He said all the middle school teachers who retired this spring informed the district of their decisions three years ago.

Judy Harris, principal at Soda Creek Elementary, said she did not have to make any new hires because two teachers returned to the school after a leave of absence.

"We have some continuing energy from the past," she said.

She said one of the two positions that opened for the returning teachers was funded by the Education Fund Board through the two-teacher reserve.

Harris said the first-grade class was larger than she had predicted and an extra teacher was needed to reduce the class size.

An additional third-grade teaching position was also approved through the fund board for Strawberry Park Elementary.

John DeVincentis, principal at Strawberry Park Elementary, said he had to hire only a third-grade teaching position and a special education teacher.

The North Routt Charter School also hired two new teachers. Charter school director Mary Bramer said she and the two teachers will be a great team.

With the hiring of so many exceptional teachers, administrators said they are not as wary about new teachers leaving for better-paying jobs with the new multiyear competitive pay plan.

"We are starting the year with a significant pay raise. That is a very positive step. Historically we've had salary negotiations going on throughout each year," said Nat Cooper, teacher representative for the multiyear competitive compensation plan.

He said the new compensation plan offers teachers competitive salaries with other districts that have similar costs of living.

"Steamboat has a lot of positives, so if people can manage the economics, the teaching work is very good here," he said.

Cooper said when a teaching position becomes open, the compensation plan is designed to recruit the best candidate as well as serve to retain high-quality staff.

He said he's excited to start the school year and looks forward to the energy all the new teachers will bring.

We "have a lot of young enthusiastic teachers," Schmid said.

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